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What is a Chronic Cough?
A chronic cough or persistent cough is one that lasts for more than eight weeks. It can be a frustrating and even debilitating condition, affecting your daily life and sleep quality.
Common Causes of Chronic Cough
Several factors may contribute to a persistent cough. Common culprits include:
1. Postnasal Drip
Excess mucus production and drainage from the nose into the throat can trigger a chronic cough. This may be due to a variety of factors, such as sinus infections, allergies, or a deviated septum.
Asthma, a chronic inflammation of the airways, can lead to coughing, especially during exercise or exposure to allergens.
3. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and potentially a chronic cough.
4. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, often results in a persistent cough with mucus production.
Long-lasting respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, may cause a lingering cough even after the infection has resolved.
6. Certain medications
A prescribed medicine like ACE inhibitors used for high blood pressure can cause chronic cough as a side effect. If you suspect your medication is causing your cough, consult your doctor.
Bronchiectasis is a condition characterized by damaged and widened airways, which can result in chronic cough and the production of large amounts of mucus.
8. Environmental Irritants
Exposure to environmental irritants like air pollution, chemical fumes, or secondhand smoke can cause a chronic cough in some individuals.
9. Lung Cancer
Although rare, a persistent cough can be an early sign of lung cancer. If you have a history of smoking or other risk factors, it’s important to discuss any concerning symptoms with your doctor.
10. Heart Failure
In some cases, chronic cough can be a sign of congestive heart failure, particularly when accompanied by other symptoms like shortness of breath, swelling in the legs, or rapid weight gain.
Tuberculosis is a contagious bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It primarily affects the lungs and can lead to a chronic cough, often accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Coughing up blood or mucus
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
If you suspect that you or someone you know might have tuberculosis, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the spread of the infection and improve the chances of recovery.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
In addition to persistent coughing, be aware of the following symptoms that may accompany a chronic cough:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Coughing up blood or mucus
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention.
Diagnosing the Cause
A thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional is essential for determining the cause of a chronic cough. This process may include:
- A detailed medical history
- Physical examination
- Pulmonary function tests
- Imaging studies, such as X-rays or CT scans
- Allergy testing
Managing and Treating Chronic Cough
Depending on the underlying cause, various treatments may be recommended:
For GERD, lifestyle modifications like avoiding trigger foods, elevating the head of the bed, and losing weight can help alleviate symptoms.
Antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal corticosteroids can help manage postnasal drip. Asthma may require inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators. GERD might be treated with acid-reducing medications.
Physical therapy, breathing exercises, or pulmonary rehabilitation may be beneficial for those with COPD.
Antibiotics, antiviral medications, or antifungal drugs might be prescribed for lingering infections.
Further reading: 10 Ways To Stop Coughing at Night
Chronic cough can disrupt your life, but understanding the possible causes, such as postnasal drip, allergies, asthma, GERD, infections, or medications, can help you find relief. Consult your doctor for appropriate treatment, which may include medications, lifestyle changes, or medical procedures. Don’t suffer in silence. Seek help!
Further Reading: Acute Cough: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment