Coughing is a nuisance, not only to the poor person with the cough but also the people around them. It is not always necessary to visit the doctor with a cough.
Most coughs following a cold are an irritation, can make your muscles ache and can keep you awake at night. If the cough is caused by a viral infection, there is not really much that the doctor can do. The cough will go away itself in time.
There are plenty of over the counter medications for a cough. You need to chose the most appropriate so make sure that you ask the advice of the pharmacist. A dry cough is very troublesome. It will keep you awake at night and is not productive. An over the counter preparation can really help. It will suppress the cough for a bit. The thing is, most of these medicines do not suppress the cough for very long, but at least they can alleviate the symptoms for a short while.
If the cough is a productive cough, each cough will produce phlegm. This is useful because it is ridding the body of phlegm. This needs to be coughed up. It doesn`t make the cough any less of a nuisance though. There are medicines available for this type of cough. You don`t really want to suppress it too much though as you still need to cough up the phlegm. Not coughing up the phlegm can lead to chest infections. The cough is a reflex action with the use of ejecting anything unwanted in the respiratory passage.
These type of coughs you don`t really need to visit the doctor for. They should clear up in a few weeks. If you are still coughing a month later then it is advisable to visit the doctor then.
If the cough develops into a chest infection, a visit to the doctor will be required. You can tell when the cough enters the chest as you can feel pain on the chest. It will be painful each time you cough. Antibiotics will be necessary to treat a chest infection. It could be something like bronchitis or even pneumonia if you allow it to remain untreated for a long time. It is important that you allow the chest infection to be treated as soon as possible.
A persistent cough, anything over a month, will also require a visit to the doctor. A doctor will decide whether further investigations are required. It could be a symptom of mild asthma. It could also be a symptom of something much worse like lung cancer. It could also be something highly infectious like TB (tuberculosis). It is important that you get a persistent cough checked out.
A cough indicating anything unusual will also require a visit to the doctor. Any discoloured phlegm would indicate an infection and require treatment. Coughing up blood can be due to various chest infections like pneumonia. Coughing up coffee ground (looks like coffee granules) can indicate upper gastric bleeding probably from a bleeding ulcer. Both of these can be very serious and you should visit a doctor straight away.
To sum up whether to visit the doctor with a cough, you must make a straightforward assessment at home. Don`t bother the doctor with an irritating viral cough. Not only will they not be able to treat it, you will probably send half of the patients home with it. Anything on the chest will require treatment. Anything causing any concern with coloured phlegm or blood or coffee ground, will require a visit the doctor.