A cough lasting eight weeks or longer is considered chronic. A chronic cough can disrupt your sleep and affect your work. It may be accompanied by other symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, runny nose, congestion and heartburn.
If you have a persistent cough that doesn’t disappear after a reasonable amount of time, make an appointment with your physician for an evaluation.
What Causes Chronic Cough?
A cough is your body’s way of expelling a substance that is irritating the air passages. Chronic coughing can be triggered by a variety of factors. These include:
- Postnasal drip.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Upper respiratory tract infections.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (includes bronchitis and emphysema).
- Pertussis (whooping cough).
- Air pollution.
- ACE inhibitors (found in some medications used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease).
Smokers are most at risk for developing a chronic cough, as are those exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Cough?
You should contact your doctor if your cough is accompanied by fever, excessive phlegm production or blood; fails to improve after eight weeks; interferes with your daily activities or sleep; or makes breathing difficult.
How Is a Chronic Cough Diagnosed and Treated?
Your doctor will discuss your medical history and give you a physical exam. An imaging test (X-rays or CT scan), lung function test, or lab tests may be required before a diagnosis can be determined.
Once the diagnosis is made, treatment can begin. If medications are prescribed, they may include:
- Asthma drugs.
- Acid blockers.
- Cough suppressants.
Home remedies incorporating lifestyle changes can also be effective.