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Cough, Emergency Medicine

Alison Sisitsky Curcio Reviewed 06/2017



  • A sudden spasmodic contraction of the thoracic cavity resulting in violent release of air from the lungs and usuallyaccompanied by a distinctive sound:

    • Deep inspiration

    • Glottis closes

    • E...


Signs and Symptoms

  • Sputum production:

    • Frothy (pulmonary edema)

    • Mucopurulent

    • Suggestive of bacterial pneumonia or bronchitis but also seen with viral infections

    • Rust colored (pneumococcal pneumoni...


Initial Stabilization/Therapy

Assess airway, breathing, and circulation. 

Ed Treatment/Procedures

Specific treatment related to cause: 
  • Respiratory infection: Consider antibiotics, antivirals (f...



Admission Criteria

  • Hypoxemia or critical illness

  • Suspected tuberculosis with positive chest radiograph result

  • Immunocompromised with fever

  • Risk of bacteremia or sepsis

Discharge Criteria

Pearls and Pitfalls

  • For patients fitting the clinical profile for cough due to GERD, it is recommended that treatment be initially started in lieu of testing.

  • For patients with a presumed diagnosis of ...

Additional Reading

  • Irwin  RS. Unexplained cough in the adult. Otolaryngol Clin North Am.  2010;43(1):167–180, xi–xii.

  • Irwin  RS, Baumann  MH, Bolser  DC, et al. Diagnosis and management of cough e...



  • 306.1 Respiratory malfunction arising from mental factors

  • 786.2 Cough

  • 786.30 Hemoptysis, unspecified


  • F45.8 Other somatoform disorders

  • R04.2 Hemoptysis

  • R05 Cough


  • 49727002 Cough (finding)

  • ...

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