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How Long Does A Cough Last If You Have Tuberculosis (TB)?

A cough can be a sign of several illnesses. But how do we know if it is tuberculosis? We spoke to a doctor to find out.

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: May 26, 2023 00:30 IST
How Long Does A Cough Last If You Have Tuberculosis (TB)?

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A persistent cough can be worrying, especially if it is accompanied by a green or yellow phlegm, along with blood stains. These are some of the tell-tale signs of tuberculosis (TB), which is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria that most often affects the lungs. There are several characteristics of TB-related cough that can help in the diagnosis and its effective treatment. Speaking with the Only My Health editorial team, Dr Sandeep Nayar, Senior Director & HOD- Chest & Respiratory Diseases, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital, describes what a TB cough feels like and how long it can last. 

Also Read: Bad Breath Can Be A Sign Of Several Health Problems; Here Are The Possible Causes

What Is Tuberculosis (TB)?

TB is caused by a bacterium known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most often affects the lungs, said Dr Nayar, adding that other organs such as the kidneys, spine, or brain may also get affected. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one crore people suffer from TB every year. Despite being a preventable disease, the above-mentioned health organisation reports that about 10.5 lakh people die from the disease each year, making it the top infectious killer worldwide. Furthermore, the same WHO report states that people with a compromised immune system, such as those living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who consume tobacco, are at an increased risk of contracting the disease. 

Common Respiratory Symptoms Of TB

Dr Nayar said, “Respiratory symptoms are the commonest symptoms seen in people with TB.” These include:

  • Cough
  • Breathlessness along with chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Evening rise in temperature 

How Long Does Cough From TB last?

Any person having an unexplained cough for three weeks is advised to get investigated for tuberculosis, the doctor noted. 

According to the doctor, TB-related cough normally starts as a dry, irritating cough which later on may become productive when the patient mostly produces whitish sputum (though it may be blood-stained at times). Coughing of blood, also called hemoptysis, is usually seen in patients who have cavitating lesions in the lungs, the doctor added. It may become life-threatening and needs urgent management. 

When To Seek Medical Help?

Cough can be a result of tubercular pleural effusion, which occurs when fluid accumulates outside the lungs within the pleural cavity. Explaining further, the doctor shared, “Along with antitubercular therapy, pleural fluid needs to be drained out to get relief from the cough. Cough may subside as early as two weeks once antitubercular (ATT) medicine has started, but sometimes it may persist for months. Treatment of patients requires ATT to cure the disease. Along with ATT, cough suppressants and anti-allergic medication may be administered to get rid of cough.”