A variety of conditions, from pneumonia to lung cancer, could cause chest pain and a cough. Some conditions may improve on their own, while others will need medical treatment.

A simple cough may be caused by the common cold, throat irritation, or allergies.

People may also develop chest pain with their cough, which could occur due to conditions that affect the lungs, like acute bronchitis and pneumonia.

To help you narrow down the exact cause, check out this list of 11 possible causes of chest pain and coughing.

When to get immediate medical attention

If you experience sudden, severe, and sharp chest pain, it’s important to get immediate medical attention. This may be a sign of a heart attack.

Other symptoms of a heart attack may include:

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Bronchitis, also referred to as a chest cold, occurs when the tubes that carry air from your trachea into your lungs become inflamed and filled with mucus.

Irritation of your bronchial tubes may cause repeated bouts of coughing. Your cough may initially be dry, then become productive. A “productive” cough means it produces mucus. This is the most common bronchitis symptom.

Acute bronchitis is temporary. Symptoms may last between 10 days and 3 weeks.

Pneumonia is an infection of the air sacs in your lungs. The infection could be bacterial, viral, or fungal.

Pneumonia leads to increased pus and fluid in the lungs, which may trigger coughing. Persistent coughing, in turn, might cause chest pain.

Other symptoms of pneumonia include:

It’s important to contact a doctor if you think you may have pneumonia. If left untreated, it could lead to sepsis and respiratory failure.

The pleura is the tissue that lines the outside of your lungs and inside of your chest cavity.

According to experts, three main types of pleural disorders may cause coughing and chest pain:

These disorders may be caused by:

Inflammation or fluid buildup may cause difficulty breathing and chest pain that worsens when you breathe, sneeze, or cough.

Pericarditis occurs when the sac-like tissue covering your heart, called the pericardium, becomes inflamed. It’s usually caused by a virus, but may also be caused by a bacterial infection or another disease.

A common symptom is a sudden sharp pain in the middle of the chest. This may be mistaken for a heart attack. If you experience this, get immediate medical attention.

Other symptoms could also include:

  • cough
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • difficulty breathing

Acute pericarditis may last between 1 and 3 weeks, while chronic pericarditis could last longer than 3 months.

The flu is a contagious respiratory condition that may trigger a dry, persistent cough. This may progressively become more painful and uncomfortable, leading to chest discomfort.

Other symptoms may include:

A flu-related cough may last up to 2 weeks. Chest discomfort tends to improve once the cough lessens.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term to describe progressive, chronic lung diseases. It includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory asthma.

Early symptoms may include shortness of breath and a mild, recurrent cough.

As the inflammation in the lungs increases, your symptoms may worsen. This may result in a chronic cough, increased mucus production, and chest tightness.

It’s important to speak with a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of COPD.

Asthma is an inflammatory disease typically caused by inflammation or excess mucus in the lining of your airway. This narrows your airways, making it difficult to breathe.

Some people may experience a chronic cough, leading to chest pain.

That said, chest pain may also happen before or during an asthma attack. The tightness or discomfort might feel like a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing pain.

Acid reflux is a digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus and causes irritation.

The most common symptom is heartburn, which may cause a burning sensation in your stomach, chest, and throat.

If you experience symptoms of acid reflux more than twice per week, speak with a doctor. This may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that travels to the lungs. It could cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and a cough. A blood clot in your lungs might feel like a heart attack, and you may cough up sputum with bloody streaks.

Other symptoms may include:

  • breathing quickly
  • pain when breathing deeply
  • raised heart rate
  • lightheadedness
  • sweating

Untreated pulmonary embolism could lead to lung tissue damage or be fatal. Every year, it may cause up to 100,000 deaths in the United States.

If you have a history of smoking and develop a persistent cough with chest pain, see a doctor.

Early lung cancer may not cause symptoms. But, as the cancer grows, you may develop chest tightness or pain. Shortness of breath could also lead to a chronic cough that produces blood.

It’s also possible to have noncancerous lung nodules, or atypical growths in the lung. These may sometimes come into contact with your airway and cause you to cough.

Interstitial lung disease refers to several diseases that cause scarring, known as fibrosis, in the lungs. The scarring stiffens your lungs, which makes it hard to breathe. It may also cause a dry cough and chest pain.

The risk of developing interstitial lung disease may be increased by:

One single test cannot diagnose the underlying cause of a cough and chest pain.

A doctor will typically conduct a physical and medical history examination. Depending on your symptoms, the doctor may also have you undergo a few tests to look for signs of infection, inflammation, or tumors.

These tests may include:

Certain home remedies may help relieve chest discomfort by easing the cough, such as:

  • drinking warm fluids, like tea or water
  • using a humidifier
  • avoiding smoke exposure
  • sucking on throat lozenges

Over-the-counter (OTC) medication is also available to help relieve your cough.

That said, treatment for chest pain and coughing will depend on the underlying condition.

Viral infection

There’s no cure for a viral infection like the flu or viral acute bronchitis. In this case, the virus has to run its course, although OTC cold and flu medications may help relieve symptoms.

Bacterial infection

If you have a bacterial infection, like some types of pneumonia or bronchitis, you’ll need to take antibiotics. It’s important to take the full course of a prescribed antibiotic to ensure full treatment of the infection.

Pleural disorders and pericarditis

Medications may help treat infections, while corticosteroids might reduce inflammation.

Chronic conditions

For chronic conditions like COPD or asthma, a doctor may recommend a therapy based on the severity of your symptoms. For example, a bronchodilator and other COPD medications might help reduce breathlessness. Or you may need to use a short-acting or long-acting inhaler for asthma.

Pulmonary embolism

Treatment may involve blood thinners and a procedure to remove a large blood clot.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy drugs, or radiation.

Interstitial lung disease

Treatment depends on the type of disease but may include:

A nagging cough might not be concerning, but chest pain may be serious.

Contact a doctor if you have an unexplained cough that doesn’t improve for more than 3 weeks, or if it’s accompanied by chest pain or other symptoms like:

  • a fever higher than 100.4°F (38°C)
  • bloody mucus with your cough
  • leg pain or swelling
  • shortness of breath
  • hoarseness
  • feelings of weakness, dizziness, or fatigue

When should I worry about chest pain and coughing?

Coughing and chest pain may be caused by the common cold, throat irritation, or allergies. They may also be a sign of something more serious. Prompt medical assistance is advised if you experience chest pain that is sharp, sudden, or severe, chest pain that radiates to your arm, neck, or jaw, bloody mucus with your cough, weakness, dizziness, or an inability to catch your breath, and nausea, sweating, or vomiting.

Does your chest hurt when you have COVID-19?

Chest pain is possible with COVID-19, but not everyone experiences the same symptoms or with the same intensity. The virus that causes COVID-19 may induce inflammation in the lungs and injury to the heart in some people. In these cases, it’s possible to develop a cough, shortness of breath, and a burning sensation in the chest and lungs.

Other common symptoms may include fever, loss of taste or smell, and fatigue.

If you experience a persistent cough and chest pain that won’t go away, medical assistance is advised.

What are the symptoms of bronchitis?

A dry cough that develops into a cough with mucus is a common symptom of bronchitis. Other symptoms may include nasal congestion, runny nose, fever, low energy, and chest congestion. Only a healthcare professional can provide you with an accurate diagnosis.

What causes chest pain and coughing?

Chest pain (or pressure) and coughing may result from bronchitis, pneumonia, the flu, chronic conditions of the lungs, asthma, acid reflux, cancer, and inflammation in the covering of your heart, among others. If you experience cough and chest pain that doesn’t improve in a few days or that happens with fever and difficulty breathing, prompt medical assistance is highly advised.

A variety of conditions may trigger a cough with chest pain, so it’s often difficult to pinpoint the underlying cause.

If your symptoms are persistent or worsen, or if they are accompanied by other symptoms, speak with a doctor. They may be able to diagnose the underlying cause and help build a proper treatment plan for you.