Cough (Chronic Cough)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: George Schiffman, MD, FCCP
    George Schiffman, MD, FCCP

    George Schiffman, MD, FCCP

    Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideCold and Flu: Finding Relief for Your Cough

Cold and Flu: Finding Relief for Your Cough

What are causes of chronic cough?

Some common causes of chronic cough include asthma, allergic rhinitis, sinus problems (for example sinus infection),esophageal reflux of stomach contents, medications such as ACE inhibitors, and whooping cough. In rare cases, chronic cough may be the result of inhaling foreign objects into the lungs (usually in children). It is important to see a doctor who may order a chest X-ray if a chronic cough is present. The following are common causes of chronic coughing.

  • Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of a constant, chronic cough.
  • Asthma is a disease of the airways, resulting in difficulty breathing or wheezing often characterized by abnormal breathing tests. Some asthma sufferers have chronic cough as their only symptom. They may even have normal lung functions tests. This is often referred to as cough-variant asthma. Asthma symptoms can be aggravated by cold air, exposure to air pollutants, pollen, smoke, or perfumes.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) refers to acid reflux, or backward flow, of stomach acid and other contents into the esophagus. If stomach acid moves backward up the esophagus, reflexes result in spasm of the airways that can cause shortness of breath and coughing. In some instances, acid reflux can be so severe that substances can be inhaled (aspirated) into the lungs and cause similar symptoms as well as damage to lung tissue. In some individuals, no sensation of heartburn is felt and their only symptom may be chronic cough.
  • Sinus problems and postnasal drip also are causes of chronic cough with mucus. This condition can be difficult to detect. Sometimes CT scan of the sinuses is necessary for diagnosis. Affected individuals often complain of a "tickle in their throat" and frequent throat clearing. Continue Reading
Reviewed on 5/17/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Medscape.com. Diet High in Fruit Fiber and Flavonoids May Prevent Chronic Productive Cough.

National Lung Health Education Program. Chronic Cough.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Proton Pump Inhibitors: Use in Adults. August 2013. 16 June 2015 <http://www.cms.gov/Medicare-Medicaid-Coordination/Fraud-Prevention/Medicaid-Integrity-Education/Pharmacy-Education-Materials/Downloads/ppi-adult-factsheet.pdf>

UpToDate. Patient information: Chronic cough in adults.

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