Chronic cough — one lasting eight weeks or longer — is more than just an annoyance. A chronic cough can ruin your sleep and leave you feeling exhausted. Severe cases of chronic cough can result in vomiting, rib fractures and lightheadedness.
While it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the problem that's triggering your chronic cough, the most common causes are tobacco use, postnasal drip, asthma and acid reflux — the backflow of stomach acid, which can irritate your throat. Chronic cough typically disappears once the underlying problem is treated.
A chronic cough can occur with other signs and symptoms, which may include:
When to see a doctor
An occasional cough is normal — it helps clear foreign substances and secretions from your lungs and prevents infection. But a cough that persists for long periods of time is usually the result of an underlying problem. Examples include:
Being a current or former smoker is one of the leading risk factors for chronic cough. Frequent exposure to secondhand smoke also can lead to coughing and lung damage.
Women tend to have more-sensitive cough reflexes, so they're more likely to develop a chronic cough than are men.
Having a persistent cough can be exhausting. The physical action of coughing depletes your energy reserves and disrupts your sleep. A chronic cough can also cause:
Preparing for your appointment
While you may initially consult your family physician, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in lung disorders (pulmonologist).
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your medical history and physical examination help determine which tests your doctor will order. The goal of testing is to identify the underlying cause of your chronic cough.
Lung function tests
A spirometer is a diagnostic device that measures the amount of air you're able to breathe in and out and the time it takes you to exhale completely after you take a deep breath. ...
Treatments and drugs
Determining the cause of chronic cough is crucial to effective treatment. In some cases, more than one underlying condition may be causing your chronic cough.
Medications used to treat chronic cough may include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
In many cases, there are measures you can take at home to help ease your chronic cough. Examples include:
Last Updated: 2011-05-14
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