What distinguishes a typical cough from tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis has a distinctive cough. TB cough is essential for its spread; it is either purulent or bloody, and it lasts for more than two weeks. While a common cough can be dry or wet, is associated with a cold, runny nose, and sore throat, and usually lasts for 5–7 days, these can be distinguished through clinical and radiological examination.

One of the most common ailments for which people visit family doctors or general practitioners is a cough. You must know that coughing is the body’s protective response. It usually happens when something irritates the air passages or the throat. Even though the occasional cough is normal, you should not ignore a persistent cough along with other symptoms like breathlessness, mucus production, or bloody sputum and consult a doctor immediately. However, some signs of the common cold, cough, and tuberculosis are comparable, which could be confusing. This article explains how to distinguish between the two using both clinical signs and diagnostic tests.

What differentiates the typical cough from the TB cough? 

Please be aware that the type of cough and how long it lasts are what clinicians use to distinguish between potential causes. Pulmonary tuberculosis and other acute and chronic respiratory infections frequently cause coughing. Early-stage pulmonary tuberculosis symptoms resemble those of the common cold and cough. They differ from a common cold, though, in that the symptoms last longer than two weeks or cycle back and forth between getting better and worse. Additionally, TB cough is a significant factor in its spread.

What other signs set the common cough apart from the TB cough? 

Sore throat, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing are all signs of a common cold and cough, whether or not a fever is present. Along with a dry or wet cough, there might be a tickling sensation in the back of the throat. The illness is viral in origin and typically resolves on its own in 5-7 days. The symptoms of tuberculosis, on the other hand, appear gradually over a few weeks and get worse if left untreated. Coughs lasting more than two weeks are common in tuberculosis patients. There is either a purulent or bloody TB cough present. Additionally, these patients may develop night shivers, lose weight, eat less, and develop a fever.

What diagnostic differences exist between the two conditions?

Clinical examination may reveal nasal mucosa and throat redness in people with the common cold. A chest exam is typically normal. The patient with tuberculosis has a history of being in close proximity to a TB patient. Besides that, patients with tuberculosis exhibit abnormal breath sounds during a chest exam, particularly over the upper lobes of the lungs, such as crackles or wheezing. Positive TB skin tests or Mantoux tests, blood tests such as screening IGRAs, and sputum tests can all be used to diagnose tuberculosis. Additionally, a chest X-ray or a CT scan reveals radiographic features typical of tuberculosis, such as infiltrates or cavities. Whereas a doctor can diagnose a common cold or cough on the basis of the patient’s medical history and physical examination alone, without the need for any additional tests.

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