A chronic cough is defined as a cough that lasts eight weeks or longer in adults or four weeks or longer in children. They can be productive, which means they produce phlegm or dry and feel like you have a constant tickle in your throat.
Five Common Causes of a Chronic Cough
- Asthma. An asthma-related cough is often dry. It may worsen depending on the time of year and other factors like allergen exposure, stress, exercise or cold air. It may also become worse right after having an upper respiratory infection. There is also a specific type of asthma called cough-variant asthma where a cough is the main symptom.
- Chronic bronchitis. This long-term inflammation of the airways is common among smokers. The inflammation causes too much mucus production. People with chronic bronchitis also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Recent infection. Sometimes an upper respiratory infection can leave a lingering cough even after other symptoms have resolved. Some infections that may be likely to cause a chronic cough include pneumonia, the flu, and the common cold.
- Postnasal drip. This condition is caused by excess mucus building up and dripping down the back of your throat. This can cause irritation, which leads to coughing. Common causes of postnasal drip include sinus infections, colds and flu, allergies, irritants, changes in weather or eating spicy foods.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. This causes irritation and leads to symptoms like heartburn and can also cause coughing.
When To Seek Treatment for a Chronic Cough
Chronic coughs should be evaluated by a doctor to determine the cause and what treatment options are available.
To help your doctor figure out what is causing your symptoms, make a note of when your symptoms first occurred, as well as anything you’ve noticed that makes your cough better or worse. Your doctor will evaluate your medical history and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. They may also run additional tests like imaging scans and taking a sputum sample to help determine the underlying cause.
Treatment will depend on the cause of your cough and may include:
- Acid blockers (if symptoms are related to GERD)
- Antibiotics for bacterial infections
For more information about what causes a chronic cough, call the specialists at Midwest Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists today.