Coughing performs an important function since it helps keep your lungs clear and also prevents infection. An occasional cough is nothing to worry about, but a persistent, chronic cough is a sign that an underlying medical problem exists.
In this blog, NYC pulmonologist/lung doctor Dr. Marc Bowen of MXBowen, Physician P.C., Health & Breathing Center explains what you need to know about chronic cough.
What is chronic cough?
This type of cough is defined as one that lasts eight weeks or longer, but a cough that lasts longer than a week or two may also warrant a visit to the doctor.
Chronic coughing can be disruptive to your life, interfering with your sleep and activities, and it can persist until its underlying cause is identified and treated.
What causes chronic coughing?
One or more of the following can cause chronic cough:
- Tobacco use
- Postnasal drip
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Infections, including pertussis (whooping cough)
- Medications – such as ACE inhibitors, which are sometimes used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure
- Chronic bronchitis
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Laryngopharyngeal reflux – stomach acid that backs up into your throat
What are the symptoms associated with chronic cough?
It can cause the following symptoms:
- Interrupted sleep
- Rib fractures
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Urinary incontinence
- A sour taste in your mouth
- Coughing up blood
- Need to clear your throat frequently
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
What are the treatment options?
Treatment depends on what’s actually causing your coughing. Some medicines can help suppress a cough to some degree but treating the underlying condition that’s making you cough will help provide long-term relief.
Some common forms of treatment include the following:
- Antibiotics – for coughs caused by bacterial infection
- Inhaled asthma drugs – can help reduce inflammation and open up your airways
- Antihistamines and decongestants – to treat coughs caused by allergies or post nasal drip
- Lifestyle changes – such as losing weight and eating smaller meals for coughs caused by GERD
- Acid blockers – for coughs caused by GERD
- Cough suppressants
If you have a cough that has persisted for weeks, make an appointment today with Dr. Bowen. He’ll conduct an examination, talk to you about your medical history and symptoms, and conduct any necessary tests to discover the cause of your chronic cough and develop a treatment plan to help you get relief.