This infection of the heart’s inner lining can cause you to cough. It may cause heart failure, which might also lead to coughing.

Endocarditis is a rare, potentially fatal infection of the heart’s inner lining that impacts 3–10 people out of every 100,000. It causes flu-like symptoms, which may include a cough.

When left untreated, endocarditis can develop into more serious conditions like heart failure that can also cause an individual to cough.

Successfully treating the infection and repairing any heart damage the infection may have caused can help to eliminate coughing due to endocarditis.

Coughing is one of the flu-like symptoms that can be seen in early endocarditis, as well as fever and chills.

It can also be a symptom of more severe conditions that may develop if endocarditis is not treated promptly. To understand why this is, it’s important to understand how endocarditis develops.

Almost all endocarditis cases are caused by a bacterial infection that the body is unable to fight off. Endocarditis typically begins when bacteria enter the body through a cut, injection site, surgery, or dental work. These germs then travel through the bloodstream until they reach the heart.

Once bacteria reach the heart, they can attach to the valves or get trapped in the lining and grow. If the bacteria continue to grow, it can cause inflammation and damage to the heart. Left untreated, endocarditis can result in more serious conditions like heart failure.

Little clumps of bacteria can also develop at the infection site. Moving like a blood clot, these may travel through the body blocking blood flow to the lungs and other organs. A buildup of fluid and puss in the lungs may cause individuals to cough. Other lung complications may also occur as a result of germs coming in contact with the lungs, like pneumonia.

Individuals with heart failure may feel the need to cough because of fluid retention. When a weakened heart is not pumping blood as expected, fluid can build up in the body including in the air sacs of the lungs. ACE inhibitors, a kind of medication frequently prescribed for those with heart failure, can also cause a dry cough.

While coughing may be one of the symptoms, it’s not one of the most classic endocarditis symptoms that may include:

  • chills
  • night sweats
  • fever
  • headaches
  • joint and muscle pain
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • a new heart murmur or changes to an existing heart murmur
  • weight loss and lack of appetite
  • petechiae (little brown, purple, or red spots on the skin)
  • painless red spots on the palms and soles
  • painful red spots on fingertips and toe pads
  • bleeding under the nails

If endocarditis is not effectively treated, it may lead to other conditions with their own symptoms like:

Treatment for endocarditis usually requires IV antibiotics in the hospital.

These antibiotics are chosen based on the specific germs causing an individual’s infection. In order to determine what antibiotic or combination of antibiotics should be used, doctors will frequently perform blood cultures and confer with infectious disease specialists.

Individuals with endocarditis should expect at least 6–8 weeks of antibiotic treatments. Individuals may need antibiotics for longer though if they’re not free of the infection and inflammation has not gone down.

As the infection improves and inflammation decreases, individuals will usually see a reduction in symptoms, which includes coughing related to endocarditis.

Some individuals also require surgery after their endocarditis to repair the heart valves or replace implants like pacemakers and defibrillators.

Surgery may also be necessary to drain abscesses and repair fistulas created by the endocarditis. This can help to improve symptoms related to decreased cardiac function, which can include coughing.

Coughing and other flu-like symptoms can be a symptom of endocarditis. If endocarditis is not effectively treated and it progresses, it can develop into serious conditions like heart failure. These can also result in coughing.

It’s important to see your doctor right away if you believe you may have endocarditis.

Prompt treatment with antibiotics is necessary to prevent serious health complications with potentially fatal outcomes. To help prevent harmful bacteria from entering your body, it’s important to maintain good physical and oral hygiene.