When to Visit the ER for a Cough or Sore Throat

Coughs and sore throats often seem like par for the course—especially during flu season. But if they are accompanied by any of the symptoms below, or if your immune system is compromised due to an existing condition, you may need to seek emergency treatment.

If You Have These Symptoms, You May Need Emergency Care

Seek ER treatment if the cough or sore throat is accompanied by:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • High fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Inability to swallow
  • Muffled voice
  • Inability to open mouth all the way
  • Significant swelling on one side of the throat, which may indicate an abscess of the tonsil

If You Have a Compromised Immune System, You May Need Emergency Care

Our immune system fights off illness and infection, but some conditions can leave the immune system weakened. This means even common colds can cause serious complications.

Your immune system can be compromised by the following: 

  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Recent transplant (and accompanying transplant medication)
  • Existing severe infection or illness

If you are coughing or have a sore throat while your immune system is compromised, seek emergency care.