Congestive Heart Failure & Coughing: What to Do When Experiencing Cardiac Cough

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDFebruary 21st, 2020
Coughing Woman

You have a bad cough; so what? It’s probably just a little cold, or so you keep telling yourself and anyone who comments. While most people associate coughing as a common symptom that accompanies lung or respiratory issues, its connection to heart failure often goes unnoticed. This is called a cardiac cough, and it often happens to those with congestive heart failure (CHF). In fact, a bad cough and CHF can actually be a warning that your treatment for heart failure is, well, failing or, at the very least, reacting poorly with your body. Stick around as we dive deeper into the relationship between congestive heart failure and coughing, and how you should treat your cardiac cough when experiencing exacerbated symptoms.

Congestive Heart Failure 101

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the demands of your body. This impairment can result from a number of preexisting cardiac disorders, which can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Wheezing or chronic coughing

Due to the heart’s inability to effectively pump blood, any returning circulation from the heart to the lungs can get backed up. This can lead to pulmonary congestion; hence, the name “congestive heart failure.” It’s also the primary reason behind chronic coughing.

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Cardiac Cough

As the lungs become congested, due to CHF, excess fluid can start to leak into the air sacs (alveoli). Coughing is the body’s natural response to this airway blockage, cuing you to clear the bronchial passages in attempt to relieve the congestion. Enter: cardiac coughing. If you have been diagnosed with CHF, it’s important that you seek medical attention to help manage and keep track of your symptoms. Any sudden changes to your symptoms, such as cardiac coughing, can be a sign of CHF treatment failure. If you experience any of the following symptoms with a frequent, wet cough, you could be experiencing cardiac coughing:

  • Dyspnea. If you find yourself getting out of breath while performing a simple activity or while sleeping, you could have dyspnea. This breathlessness is often the result of CHF, where pulmonary congestion occurs—causing fluid to leak into the lungs.
  • Wheezing. A productive cough that produces white or blood-tinged mucus could also be a sign of fluid buildup in the lungs. It can also cause labored breathing and wheezing.
  • Confusion and impaired thinking. Disorientation, fatigue, weakness, and memory loss can all be attributed to CHF, as it affects the lungs’ ability to carry sufficient oxygen to the rest of your body.

What To Do When Experiencing Cardiac Coughing?

If you cough every time you take a deep breath or find yourself getting quickly winded at the end of a long speech, then you understand the frustrations of dealing with a chronic cough. And, while there are treatment options available for those with a cardiac cough, it can take a while to find the most suitable treatment for your unique needs. So, what should you do in the meantime? If you are experiencing cardiac coughing, you first need to note the symptoms and review them with your healthcare provider. However, if you find you’re consistently experiencing unmanageable episodes of cardiac coughing, you should seek medical attention immediately. This is especially important if you’ve already been diagnosed with CHF or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as a chronic cough could exacerbate the existing conditions.

How DispatchHealth Can Help

In the event that you need immediate medical treatment for your cardiac cough, the last thing you’ll want to struggle with is a trip to the nearest ER. It’s stressful and overwhelming, which can cause your coughing to flare up even more than it already has. That’s where DispatchHealth can help. As an on-demand advanced urgent care alternative, we do healthcare differently—coming directly to your home with nearly all of the tools and technologies found in expensive ER settings. All you have to do is contact us via phone, mobile app, or our site. Within a couple of hours, we’ll have a team of medically trained professionals at your door. Best of all, we accept most major forms of insurance—including Medicaid and Medicare—ensuring everyone can have access to the acute medical attention that they need at an affordable price that they’ll love.


To learn more about our in-home medical services for your acute medical needs, like cardiac coughing, congestive heart failure, and COPD, reach out to DispatchHealth today!


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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