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Points in the history

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Features of the cough:

  • duration
  • constant or intermittent
  • productive or dry cough
  • if sputum - nature of sputum:
    • yellow - suggestive of infection or asthma
    • large amounts of green sputum is suggestive of bronchiectasis
    • pneumococcal pneumonia is suggested by rusty sputum
  • haemoptysis:
    • frank haemoptysis or recurrent small haemoptyses may occur in non-infective coughs e.g. lung cancer
    • infection may present with blood-streaked sputum
    • pulmonary oedema may cause pink, frothy sputum
  • timing:
    • a night-time cough suggests asthma or cardiovascular disease; asthma may also present with an exercise-related cough

Associated factors:

  • acute infection is often accompanied by fever and malaise
  • wheezing occurs in asthma, COPD and pulmonary oedema
  • chest pain
    • pleuritic chest pain occurs in infection and infarction
  • malignancy and tuberculosis should be considered if the patient is suffering from weight loss, anorexia, night sweats
  • a smoking history should be recorded
  • occupational history
  • history of allergy
  • drug history e.g. ACE inhibitors can cause a dry cough

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