Symptoms A-Z

Foul-smelling Cough Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand foul-smelling cough symptoms, including 3 causes & common questions.

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  1. 3 Possible Foul-Smelling Cough Causes
  2. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  3. Statistics

3 Possible Foul-Smelling Cough Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced foul-smelling cough. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.


Bronchiectasis is destruction and widening of the large airways. Mucus builds up in these airways and can get infected, causing a pneumonia.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, runny nose, mucous dripping in the back of the throat

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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Bacterial pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by one of several different bacteria, often Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumonia is often contracted in hospitals or nursing homes.

Symptoms include fatigue, fever, chills, painful and difficult breathing, and cough that brings up mucus. Elderly patients may have low body temperature and confusion.

Pneumonia can be a medical emergency for very young children or those over age 65, as well as anyone with a weakened immune system or a chronic heart or lung condition. Emergency room is only needed for severe cases or for those with immune deficiency.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests and chest x-ray.

With bacterial pneumonia, the treatment is antibiotics. Be sure to finish all the medication, even if you start to feel better. Hospitalization may be necessary for higher-risk cases.

Some types of bacterial pneumonia can be prevented through vaccination. Flu shots help, too, by preventing another illness from taking hold. Keep the immune system healthy through good diet and sleep habits, not smoking, and frequent handwashing.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath

Symptoms that always occur with bacterial pneumonia: cough

Urgency: In-person visit

Lung abscess

A lung abscess is a large collection of pus in the tissue of the lungs that results from a bacterial infection. Bacteria that should not normally be found in the lungs causes inflammation that leads to a breakdown of the lung tissue, thus producing the pus.

Symptoms vary depending on whether the abscess is acute or chronic. They may include fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, a cough with mucus or blood, and chest pain when breathing.

Once a diagnosis has been made by an X-ray or further imaging, the main method of treatment is antibiotics to rid the body of infection. Surgery is rarely required.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: coughing up green or yellow phlegm, rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing, night sweats, unintentional weight loss, coughing up a lot of fluid

Urgency: In-person visit

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Foul-Smelling Cough

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Do you currently smoke?
  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out why you're having foul-smelling cough

Foul-Smelling Cough Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced foul-smelling cough have also experienced:

  • 13% Cough
  • 4% Chronically Bad Breath
  • 3% Vaginal Discharge

People who have experienced foul-smelling cough were most often matched with:

  • 35% Bacterial Pneumonia
  • 35% Lung Abscess
  • 28% Bronchiectasis

People who have experienced foul-smelling cough had symptoms persist for:

  • 43% Less than a week
  • 15% One to two weeks
  • 15% Two weeks to a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Foul-Smelling Cough Symptom Checker

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