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Chronic cough – Symptoms and causes

Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)


Know the basics

What is cough?

A cough occurs when cells along the air passages get irritated. This irritation triggers the lung to force out the air under high pressure. Depending on the duration, a cough can be acute, sub-acute, or chronic.

How common is cough?

A cough is a natural and common reflex that protects your lungs. It helps clear your airways of lung irritants, such as smoke and mucus (a slim substance) and prevent infections.

Prolong coughing creates many unpleasant side effects and could be very dangerous if left unchecked. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of cough?

A cough is often a symptom of other condition. It can be chronic or acute. No matter which type of cough you have, these are the common symptoms of coughs are:

  • Fever;
  • Chills;
  • Body aches;
  • Sore throat;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Headache;
  • Night sweats;
  • Runny nose;
  • Postnasal drip.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Most cough caused by colds or flu would disappear quickly on their own. However, you should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Feel dizzy after coughing;
  • Cough out blood;
  • Chest pain;
  • Constant coughing at night;
  • Fever;
  • Coughing does not improve after 7 days;
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes cough?

When there is an irritant in your lungs, your body’s natural reaction is to cough to get the irritant out. There are many things that can irritate your lungs, such as:

  • Viruses: cold or flu viruses are the most common causes. By coughing, you are getting rid of the viruses out of your lungs when you are sick.
  • Allergies and asthma: your lung will try to cough out what is annoying your body.
  • Irritants: such as cold air, cigarette, smoke, or strong perfumes can trigger cough.
  • Other causes such as lung inflammation, sleep apnea, low mood or depression, side effects of certain drugs.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for cough?

Environmental irritants will worsen the cough. For instance, people with environmental allergy may have their cough treated by using allergy medications. If a person has a smoker’s cough, it may improve if they stop smoking or worsen if they keep smoking.

If a person has a chronic lung disease such as asthma or chronic bronchitis, they may suffer from persistent cough that worsens with certain locations or activities.

Some medications can cause coughing such as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). However, the cough often dry and improves when you stop using this medication.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cough diagnosed?

The diagnosis of cough is based largely on the information that you give to the doctor. The doctor may ask you some questions such as the duration of the cough, associated signs and symptoms, what makes your cough worse or better, etc.

Sometimes, the doctor may ask you to perform some physical examination or diagnostic tests prior to diagnosis. It is important that you stay active and take control of your own health care by providing accurate information and discuss with the doctor about your condition.

How is cough treated?

Usually, cough caused by viral infection may disappear on their own. However, using these tips below would help aids the immune system in fighting diseases:

  • Cough medications including expectorants and antitussives;
  • Cough suppressants including pholcodine, dextromethorphan and antihistamines;
  • Antibiotics.

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Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cough?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with health condition:

  • Take sufficient rest. Resting can improve your immune system and thereby fighting viruses more efficiently.
  • Drink plenty of water or clear fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Reduce or try to quit smoking.
  • Avoid damp places.
  • Eat honey whenever you cough to sooth the throat and prevent coughing.

Many herbal remedies are claimed to be very efficient in soothing and reducing the urge to cough. For instance, to treat dry cough, you could use spruce (pine trees), slippery elm or marshmallow root. If you have chesty coughs, then ivy, thyme, liquorice root would be useful.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


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