“One of the hallmark symptoms of pneumonia is cough, but it is infrequently the only symptom,” says Jose C. Yataco, MD, pulmonologist and critical care specialist with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL.

“Infrequently” is the key word here. It’s possible for coughing to be the only symptom of pneumonia—just not likely.

My mother’s only symptom of her second bout of pneumonia was, indeed, just coughing.

But there was something about the way it sounded that made me highly suspicious that it was pneumonia, which was confirmed with an X-ray.

Dr. Yataco continues, “It is important to mention that pneumonia tends to be more common in patients with pre-existing lung disease like emphysema (COPD).

“Those patients typically have cough on a regular basis. However, any change in the intensity of the cough or in the characteristics of the phlegm (increased amount, change in color, etc.) should alert the patient that a different process is occurring and that medical attention should be sought immediately.” pneumonia