A doctor says that after recovering from pneumonia, the cough can persist for a few weeks.

“Yes, it is true,” says Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore; Diplomate, American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.

“It is because the damage to the lung tissue (inflammation) can take several weeks to completely heal.”

Years ago a doctor had told my mother that “I think it’s completely normal for a cough to drag on for a couple weeks even after the pneumonia is gone.”

A CT scan showed that my mother no longer had pneumonia. She had the CT scan because a D-dimer test result was elevated, and when this result is elevated, it can indicate the presence of a pulmonary embolus (blood clot).

This was while she was in the midst of recovering from pneumonia, which of course, was characterized by plenty of coughing and hacking.

The ER doctor said that a CT scan is far more definitive than X ray, and since it showed no pneumonia, she was declared free of the infection, even though she was continuing to cough.

A few days later my mother then had a follow-up with her primary care physician.

I was present in the office and asked just how long a cough is supposed to last after one recovers from pneumonia. This came up a few times during the course of the visit.

In addition to the first verbatim quote mentioned at the beginning of this article, the doctor also stated:

“It’s absolutely normal that you still have a cough. That cough can drag on for another few weeks.

“It caused damage to the airways. Your body still has to clean everything out.

“It can be two or three months before you feel completely normal.”

This was all after I had initially asked, “Can a person still be coughing sputum after the pneumonia is cleared?”

The physician responded, “Yes. It can take a couple of weeks for all that to clear up.”

Never be “afraid” to ask a doctor many questions!

You are not expected to know what a doctor knows, and hence, doctors welcome questions.

So there you have it, stated several times by a doctor seeing my mother who, two days prior, was told that she no longer had pneumonia, but was still having occasional bouts of productive coughing-phlegm or sputum coming up.

The doctor also said that it’s good that all that phlegm is coming up, and that the patient should never swallow it.

Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
Top image: Shutterstock/Ruslan Huzau