Colds and allergies may produce mucus that drains down the back of the throat (post-nasal drainage). Home treatment may be all that is needed to provide relief if you have a productive cough and post-nasal drainage but do not have other symptoms.
A productive cough in a person who smokes is often a sign of lung damage. For smokers, the most effective way to treat a cough is to stop smoking. A change in the cough or in the colour or quantity of sputum may mean a bacterial lung infection.
A productive cough is a more serious when:
- It produces sputum from the lungs (not post-nasal drainage).
- The sputum is rust-coloured or contains bright red blood.
- It lasts longer than 10 days.
- It occurs with other symptoms. These may include:
- Fever and chills.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Night sweats.
- Weight loss.
- You have a known exposure to tuberculosis.
A doctor can evaluate your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.
Current as of: June 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
David Messenger, BSc, MD, FRCPC, FCCP - Emergency Medicine, Critical Care Medicine