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Chronic cough – What causes it

By Modern60, Editorial Team

Last Updated on March 28th, 2024

Senior Health & Wellness

Chronic cough – What causes it

Chronic cough, known as refractory chronic cough or idiopathic cough in medical terms, is a persistent cough that lasts over eight weeks. This condition is mainly a result of other health problems like postnasal drip, asthma, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Some common symptoms of chronic cough include a runny nose, mucus that trickles to the back of one’s throat, a sore or inflamed throat, or fever. Here are the causes, home remedies, and treatment options.

What causes chronic cough?
There are several reasons why a patient may suffer from chronic or persistent cough, including:

Postnasal drip
Postnasal drip occurs when mucus drips from one’s nose after a cold and enters the back of the throat. A cold is often a result of an allergic reaction to pollen, environmental pollutants, dust, pet dander, or sinus issues. In postnasal drip, you may notice that the nose is stuffy, blocked, or runny, and you may feel a thick liquid at the back of the throat, especially when lying down.

Asthma is a type of respiratory disorder that affects the airways and is common in adults and kids alike. It often causes shortness of breath and wheezing, in addition to coughing and chest tightness. It is also an allergic reaction to triggers like pollen, dust, or pet dander, and the chronic cough due to asthma may be seasonal. The condition may worsen when exposed to certain fragrances, dry air, or cold.

Another common cause of cough is a viral or bacterial infection like fungal lung infections, pneumonia, tuberculosis, whooping cough, or, at times, common flu that affects the respiratory tract. These infections inflame the airways and cause irritation or inflammation in the throat as well. One may experience a post-viral chronic cough or the lingering cough after the viral or respiratory infection has significantly subsided, caused by airway inflammation and postnasal drip.

Chronic bronchitis
This is another common cause of chronic cough. It causes the lining of the bronchial tubes to get inflamed, leading to excessive mucus production. This excess mucus triggers coughing as the body attempts to clear the airways.

Acid reflux
Acid reflux happens when the stomach acid, produced to digest food, escapes the stomach and flows back into the esophagus. Those suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), at times, experience chronic cough as a symptom. When stomach acid reaches the esophagus, it can irritate its sensitive lining and trigger persistent coughing.

Lung cancer
This disease is a lesser-known but possible cause of chronic cough. Lung cancer affects the lungs and can cause persistent coughing lasting more than a month. Additionally, individuals with lung cancer may experience symptoms such as coughing up blood, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

Remedies of chronic cough
Several home remedies are available to cure persistent cough, but if the condition persists, you must consider seeking immediate medical help. Here are some remedies to help soothe the body:

  • Drink water and fluids
    Staying hydrated is important to thin mucus, drain it, and soothe the throat.
  • Use a humidifier
    A humidifier adds moisture to the air and makes it less dry. Moist air can soothe your throat and make it feel less irritated.
  • Take hot showers
    Take a hot bath or steamy showers to help moisten the airways and ease coughing.
  • Use natural remedies
    Have cough drops and hot herbal teas with ginger, honey, and other soothing ingredients. Also, gargle with warm saltwater multiple times a day.

Chronic cough after a cold improves with time in a few days or weeks. On average, it may take eight weeks to heal completely. However, this cough is often discomforting and does not give a complete feeling of recovery. If one coughs up blood, shows no signs of improvement, or experiences recurring symptoms like fever, body aches, chills, and others, one must immediately get a medical checkup done.

Diagnosis and treatment of chronic cough
To diagnose chronic cough, a healthcare provider performs a physical exam, asks about symptoms, and may recommend lab tests to detect bacteria, lung function tests, and imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans for further evaluation. If a cough lasts over eight weeks, a healthcare professional may suggest a differential diagnosis, in which the patient’s medical history, physical examination, and all tests are evaluated to find the potential causes and underlying conditions, if any.

Treatment for chronic cough varies from one person to another based on the symptoms and health conditions. Chronic dry cough, for instance, involves a combination of medical treatment and lifestyle changes, such as staying hydrated, using humidifiers, and avoiding irritants like smoke. It’s important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and personalized treatment.

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Editorial Team

The Editorial Team at Modern60 is a group of highly skilled professionals with diverse backgrounds in journalism, content creation, editing, and digital media. They bring a wealth of experience and expertise to ensure that every piece of content meets our strict editorial guidelines and quality standards. The team is dedicated to delivering accurate, well-researched, and engaging content across various subjects, including health, wellness, lifestyle, and current events. With their commitment to upholding the highest standards of journalism and content creation, the Modern60 Editorial Team is the driving force behind our mission to empower and inspire our readers.

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