Chronic Cough Causes and Management

Chronic cough is quite annoying and may indicate some diseases of the respiratory passages. Here we explain its causes, symptoms and treatment.

Any type of cough that lasts for more than 8 weeks can be regarded as chronic. It's the most common symptom in which adults seek medical care. It is estimated to occur in approximately 40% of the total population.

It does not only cause annoyance but also disturbs your sleep and causes exhaustion. In severe cases, patients may develop vomiting, dizziness, depression and even rib fractures.

Accompanying Symptoms of Chronic Cough

The other signs and symptoms are:

  • Running nose
  • Post nasal drip (dripping of mucus at the back of throat)
  • Sore throat and frequent clearing of throat
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heartburn
  • Coughing of blood in some rare cases

When to See a Doctor

You should consult your doctor if you have cough that does not get better for many weeks, or on coughing with sputum, or blood or cough that disturbs you at night, or a cough that disrupts your work.

Common Causes of Chronic Cough

  1. Asthma

Asthma is a type of chronic disease of the lungs in which the symptoms of chest tightness and shortness of breath are present along with cough. The cough characteristically is worse at night or in the early morning hours. Asthma can be triggered by various factors including colds, exercise, smoke, and other irritants in the air and certain foods.

  1. Allergies

Chronic cough may also be a symptom of allergies which may occur due to inhaling dust, pollen, pet dander and other irritants present in the air. The allergic reaction can trigger allergic rhinitis which has symptoms of sneezing and stuffiness of nose apart from cough. Allergic cough magically stops in situations when you are away from these irritants.

  1. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is of two types, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In COPD, the air sacs get inflamed and damaged usually because of smoking. Excessive mucus is produced by the lungs, which the body tries to get rid of by coughing. Other symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, and lacking of energy, etc.

  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is characterized by reflux of acidic contents of the stomach into the esophagus due to the weak valve. Chronic cough is a very common symptom of GERD along with heartburn, wheezing and chest pain. GERD is in fact a very common and fairly undiagnosed cause of cough that is present for a long duration.

  1. Respiratory Tract Infection

Cough is a common symptom of upper respiratory tract infection such as cold and flu. Cough occurs because the air passages become inflamed and sensitive. Cough that produces green or rust colored sputum is characteristic of pneumonia, an infection of the lower respiratory tract. Other symptoms of pneumonia include fever with chills, fatigue, weakness, nausea, and chest pain.

  1. Pollutants and Irritants in the Air

A persistent cough can be an indication of presence of pollutants and irritants in the air. Cough results as the pollutants and irritants irritate the lining of the respiratory tract. For instance, exposure to fumes such as diesel exhaust for even a short duration may result in lung irritation and coughing.

  1. Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is a condition characterized by inflammation and infection of the respiratory passages. This condition produces a hacking cough with mucus. Other symptoms of acute bronchitis include fever with chills, sore throat, aches and other symptoms similar to a flu infection.

  1. Blood Pressure Drugs

Blood pressure drugs such as ACE inhibitors can result in chronic, dry cough in approximately 1 out of 5 individuals who take such drug. In some patients, the cough may persist even for weeks after stopping the medicines.

  1. Pertussis

Pertussis is also referred to as whooping cough. It is a type of bacterial infection that is characterized by fever, runny nose and a violent cough that produces a distinctive whooping sound. The cough can remain for many months even after other symptoms have subsided.

Treatments of Chronic Cough

Medications

  • ŸDrugs for Allergies: Decongestants and antihistamines are used to treat cough due to allergy and symptoms of post nasal drip.
  • ŸInhaled Drugs for Asthma: Cough that occurs due to asthma requires inhaled drugs that decrease the inflammation of respiratory passages and widen them.
  • ŸAntibiotics for Infection: If chronic cough is caused due to an infection then your physician will prescribe you antibiotics.
  • ŸCough Suppressants: In cases where the cause cannot be determined, the physician may prescribe medicines to suppress your cough. This is done especially in cases where cough disrupts sleep. Cough suppressants should be better avoided in children as they may be harmful for them.

Home Remedies

  • ŸDon’t Smoke: Avoid smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products.
  • ŸAvoid Irritants: Stay away from irritants such as dust, smoke or other types of air pollutants.
  • ŸDrink Much Water: Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids as fluids help in thinning of the secretions.
  • ŸElevate Head While Sleep: To relieve a chronic dry cough, you should sleep with your head elevated by using extra pillows.
  • ŸHoney Tea: You can drink honey tea because it can be effective in clearing the nasal passages. Prepare a tea by mixing some honey to hot water and drink it to relieve cough.
  • ŸGinger Tea: Ginger in the form of tea is also effective in clearing the respiratory passages and relieving the chronic cough.

The cough will also be relieved if you learn the breathing exercise as the video shows:

Recommended:

Why Does My Chest Hurt When I Cough?

If you or your child brings up the point, “My chest hurts when coughing,” it may not be dangerous. However, severe chest pain or trouble breathing can be serious.


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