Chronic Cough: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Chronic cough is a persistent condition that, while not a disease itself, serves as a symptom of underlying health issues. This article aims to provide essential information on chronic cough, including its causes, risk factors, symptoms, types, treatment options, and preventive measures.

Causes and Risk Factors

Chronic cough can be triggered by various factors, including smoking, chronic bronchitis, infections (common colds, flu, whooping cough), environmental exposures (such as emphysema, exposure to allergens or irritants), asthma, allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), medications, and underlying lung conditions like bronchiectasis or lung cancer.

Accompanying Symptoms

Other symptoms that may accompany a chronic cough include a sore throat, postnasal drip, hoarseness, heartburn, and a bad taste in the mouth. Recognizing these additional symptoms is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Types of Chronic Cough

Chronic cough can manifest in various forms, such as dry cough, wet cough (producing mucus), stress cough (related to stress), ‘barking’ cough (common in children), and whooping cough (pertussis), a serious and contagious respiratory infection.

Diagnosis and Evaluation

To determine the cause of chronic cough, medical professionals may conduct a thorough evaluation, considering factors like smoking history, environmental exposures, and symptoms. Diagnostic tools such as chest X-rays and CT scans may be employed to identify underlying conditions.

Chronic Cough Treatment Options

Effective treatment of chronic cough involves addressing the underlying cause. For instance, asthma may be managed with inhaled bronchodilators and steroids, while GERD-related cough may be alleviated through lifestyle modifications and medications. Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections, and alternative medications may be recommended for those with an ACE inhibitor-induced cough.

Home Remedies

Several home remedies can help ease chronic cough symptoms. Staying hydrated, gargling with warm saltwater, using cough drops, consuming honey or ginger, and maintaining a humid environment through steam inhalation or a cool-mist humidifier can provide relief.

Chronic Cough Preventive Measures

Preventing chronic cough involves lifestyle modifications such as not smoking, managing conditions like asthma, postnasal drip, and GERD, and staying up-to-date with vaccinations, including the whooping cough vaccine.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Individuals experiencing chronic coughs accompanied by severe symptoms like wheezing, difficulty breathing, fever, chest pain, coughing up blood, or unexplained weight loss should seek immediate medical attention.

Specialists for Chronic Cough

A primary care provider may initially diagnose and treat a chronic cough. However, depending on the underlying cause, individuals may be referred to specialists such as pulmonologists (lung specialists), allergists, gastroenterologists (for GERD-related cough), or cardiologists (for heart-related symptoms).


Chronic coughing is a common symptom that warrants careful evaluation to identify and address its root cause. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options, individuals can take proactive steps to manage chronic coughs effectively. Seeking timely medical attention and adopting preventive measures are crucial for maintaining respiratory health and overall well-being.


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  2. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Proton Pump Inhibitors: Use in Adults. August 2013. 16 June 2015
  3. Waknine, Y. Diet High in Fruit Fiber and Flavonoids May Prevent Chronic Productive Cough. Medscape Medical News. Aug 03, 2004.

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