Chronic Cough

Table of Contents

What is Chronic Cough?

Coughing is usually caused by something that irritates or disrupts the respiratory tract, causing the muscles in the chest and abdomen to contract. However, when you experience a persistent cough, it can affect your daily activities. The condition is certainly something of concern. A chronic cough is typically wet and contains phlegm, or is dry and tickles the throat.

When you cough, it is your body’s response when something irritates your throat or airways. A chronic cough usually lasts for more than eight weeks in adults or more than four weeks in children. The causes can vary, ranging from asthma, allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or bronchitis. In addition, a chronic cough is one of the dangerous symptoms of diseases related to the heart or lungs.

Causes of Chronic Cough

There are several factors that can cause chronic cough. Common causes include:


Asthma occurs when your respiratory tract is sensitive to cold, there are presence of irritants in the air, or when you exercise. One common type of asthma variation is cough variant asthma. It is a type of asthma that produces a dry, nonproductive cough. 


Chronic bronchitis will cause long-term inflammation of the respiratory tract. Not only does it cause coughing, but bronchitis is also considered a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD usually occurs as a side effect of smoking.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD occurs when acid flows back up from the stomach to your throat. It results in chronic inflammation of the throat that causes coughing.

Effects that occur after infection

If you have a critical infection, such as pneumonia or flu, it is possible for you to experience side effects such as chronic cough. Although most of the symptoms have disappeared, you may still deal with problems in your respiratory tract. 

Postnasal drip

Postnasal drip is a condition in which phlegm flows to the back of the throat. The condition causes inflammation of the throat and triggers coughing.

Treatment for lower blood pressure

Some medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors can cause a chronic cough. These medications end with “-pril” in their names, such as benazepril, captopril, and ramipril.

Common causes of chronic cough include:


Aspiration is when food does not pass through the food tract, but instead enters your airway by accident. Excess fluid build-up can become a nest of bacteria or viruses, and lead to irritation of the respiratory tract. Sometimes, aspiration can develop into pneumonia.


Bronchiectasis is when there is too much production of phlegm . It can cause the respiratory tract to become wider than normal.


Bronchiolitis is a condition usually occuring in children. The condition is caused by a virus that causes inflammation of the bronchioles, which is a small respiratory tract in the lungs.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis causes a large amount of phlegm production in the lungs and respiratory tract – which can lead to a chronic cough. 

Heart diseases 

Sometimes, coughing and shortness of breath can be a symptom of heart disease as well as heart failure. You may experience a cough that gets worse when lying on your back.

Lung cancer

Although it is rare, persistent cough can be one of the symptoms of lung cancer.


Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that causes the growth of small components in the lungs, eyes, skin, or lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes).

When to See a Doctor for Chronic Cough

Your doctor will likely ask you when you first felt the symptoms, what you did to feel better, and which symptoms worsened. Additionally, your doctor may also ask about your health history and lifestyle, such as if you smoke. Your doctor will also listen to your lungs using a stethoscope.

Some additional tests that your doctor may perform include: 

  • Take samples of phlegm culture (sputum) to determine if there are blood or cancer cells
  • Perform x-rays or computed tomography scans to determine the presence of signs of disease in the lungs or inflammation
  • Perform bronchoscopy to determine the presence of pulmonary disease or irritation

These tests will be ordered along with other tests. Your doctor will be able to determine the cause of a chronic cough through the above tests. 

Symptoms of Chronic Cough

Some of the symptoms of a chronic cough include: 

  • Nasal congestion or constant runny nose 
  • Postnasal drip
  • Frequently clears your throat
  • Laryngitis
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing sounds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Heartburn (burning sensation in the spine)
  • In some cases, there may be coughing up bloo

A chronic cough may require medical emergency if you suffer the following:

  • High fever above 39 degrees Celsius
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath

If a chronic cough interferes with your daily activities, be sure to talk to your doctor immediately, Some other symptoms that require immediate consultation include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Cough containing a lot of phlegm
  • Nausea
  • Cold sweats at night
  • Weight loss for no apparent reasons

Treatment For Chronic Cough

Treatment for chronic cough varies depending on the cause. If your doctor cannot determine the cause directly, it is likely that he or she will treat the most common factors causing chronic cough.

Postnasal drip is one of the most common causes. Your doctor may prescribe decongestants or antihistamines. These medications can help dry out secretions and reduce inflammation that can lead to postnasal drip. Nasal spray can also help treat chronic cough due to postnasal drip.

More specific treatments are done for specific medical conditions. For example, in patients with GERD, it is recommended to make lifestyle changes and take GERD medication. Some of the things that can be done are:

  • Eat small portions of food 
  • Avoid foods that can cause GERD, such as caffeine, citrus fruits, tomato-based foods, foods high in fat, chocolate, or peppermint
  • Avoid lying down after eating
  • Sleep with your head higher using an extra pillow
  • Take drugs such as cimetidine (Tagamet) or famotidine (Pepcid)

Patients who have a cough associated with ACE inhibitors should consult a doctor immediately. Your doctor will give you a prescription that can reduce high blood pressure without causing a cough.

You should not stop taking the medications as prescribed – unless they cause side effects. Be sure to consult your doctor first

Treatment Cost for Chronic Cough

Treatment cost for chronic cough cough varies depending on your choice of hospital, the cause of the chronic cough, and thetreatment method chosen. To find out the estimated treatment cost for chronic cough, find hospital recommendations, and make an appointment with a doctor, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of  Chronic Cough

Below are several measures that you can take to prevent a chronic cough:

  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.
  • Avoid eating too much.
  • Avoid lying down for at least three hours after eating if you are a GERD sufferer.
  • Consume medications as prescribed by your doctor.

Home Remedies for Chronic Cough

A chronic cough can be treated by taking medications prescribed by your doctor. In addition, you can maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to avoid a chronic cough.

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