Chronic Cough


MANILA, Philippines - For many people, a chronic cough - one lasting eight weeks or longer - is much more than an annoyance. In addition to being physically draining, a cough that hangs on for months can alienate your family and co-workers, ruin your sleep, and leave you feeling angry and frustrated. For a condition that may be relatively minor, a chronic cough can have major repercussions.

Part of the problem is that unlike the cough you get with a cold or the flu, the reason for a chronic cough isn't always clear. Even after repeat office visits and numerous tests, the cause can remain elusive. Still, the majority of cases can be diagnosed. Postnasal drip, asthma and acid reflux cause most chronic coughs; less often, infections or medications are to blame.

Although a chronic cough may not be a symptom of a serious condition, it's important to investigate any cough that doesn't go away. If the reason for a chronic cough can't be found, your doctor may prescribe a cough suppressant or other medications to help manage your symptoms

Symptoms

A chronic cough can occur with other signs and symptoms, which may include:

* A runny or stuffy nose

* A sensation of liquid running down the back of your throat

* Wheezing and shortness of breath

* Heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth

* In rare cases, coughing up blood

Causes

A cough begins when an irritant - stomach acid, mucus, hair spray, perfume, even spicy food - stimulates nerves in your respiratory tract. The cough impulse travels to your brain, which then signals muscles in your stomach and diaphragm to give a strong push to air in your lungs. It takes such force to expel irritants that the speed of coughed air can approach 500 miles an hour.

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, such as:

* Postnasal drip. Every day, glands in your nose and throat produce a quart or two of mucus, which cleans and moisturizes your nasal passages. Normally, you swallow the fluid without knowing it, but when there's more than usual - from allergies, a cold or sinus infection - you may feel it accumulating in the back of your throat. This excess mucus, commonly called postnasal drip, can cause irritation and inflammation that trigger your cough reflex. If the postnasal drip is chronic, your cough is likely to become chronic, too. Though postnasal drip is often obvious, it's possible to have the condition without ever having symptoms.

* Asthma. This is a common cause of chronic cough in adults and the leading cause in children. Most often, the cough occurs with wheezing and shortness of breath, but in one type of asthma, cough is the only symptom. An asthma-related cough may come and go with the seasons, appear after an upper respiratory tract infection, or become worse when you're exposed to cold air or certain chemicals or fragrances.

* Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In this common condition, stomach acid flows back into the tube that connects your stomach and throat (esophagus). The constant irritation in your esophagus, throat and even your lungs can lead to chronic coughing. Acid reflux often causes heartburn and a sour taste, yet close to half the people whose cough is due to reflux have no symptoms.

* Respiratory tract infection. A cough can linger long after most symptoms of a cold, flu, pneumonia or other infection of the upper respiratory tract have gone away. This may be because the airways remain inflamed and therefore especially sensitive to irritants.

* Blood pressure drugs. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which are commonly prescribed for high blood pressure and heart failure, are known to cause chronic cough in about 20 percent of the people taking them.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Chronic Cough
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?