A chronic cough is not to be taken lightly, especially when it lasts longer than eight weeks for adults, or four weeks for children. Chronic cough is usually a sign of an underlying condition. It is also the body’s way of telling you to promptly seek medical treatment while that condition is still treatable.
Women are more likely to develop a chronic cough than men because they have more sensitive cough reflexes.
Causes of Chronic Cough
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of chronic cough are acid reflux, asthma and postnasal drip. There are other health conditions that can cause chronic cough, including:
- Chronic bronchitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Infections such as pneumonia, influenza, upper respiratory tract infection, whooping cough or the common cold
- Foreign body aspiration; mostly common in children
- Laryngopharyngeal reflux
Another cause of chronic cough is lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. If you have a chronic cough that is accompanied by any the following symptoms, see your doctor right away. These are all symptoms of lung cancer.
- Chest or shoulder pain that persists over time
- Recurrent chest infections
- Unexplained tiredness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Worsening cough or a cough that changes
- Unexplained fatigue or tiredness
Being a smoker puts you at a much higher risk for chronic cough and lung cancer than that of a nonsmoker. Constant exposure to secondhand smoke is another risk factor. If there is ever a reason to quit smoking, this is that reason. Your doctor can assist you with a program to help you quit smoking.
Treatment for Chronic Cough
Treating chronic cough involves treating its underlying causes and may involve prescribing medications such as:
- Antihistamines and decongestants for chronic cough due to allergies and postnasal drip
- Inhaled asthma drugs to treat asthma-related cough
- Antibiotics to treat a cough caused by a bacterial infection
- Acid blockers to treat acid reflux-related cough.
- Cough suppressants; these are not recommended for children
Tell your doctor if your chronic cough is accompanied by wheezing, shortness of breath or produces sputum or blood. Other symptoms, such as hoarseness, sore throat and nasal congestion can also accompany a chronic cough. These are normally no cause for concern.
Should a chronic cough last for weeks regardless of the symptoms, do not hesitate to see your doctor. If necessary, he will conduct an examination and perform testing to determine any underlying condition or conditions that may be causing your chronic cough.
Ignoring your chronic cough will not make it go away.