Chronic cough is a type that lasts more than 8 weeks. This cough one of the frequent reasons for visits to the doctor. This type of cough is not a disease but a health issue resulting from other health ailments.
Health ailments that cause chronic cough
It is important to note that chronic cough is generally triggered by these health issues:
- Smoking – the main cause of chronic cough
- Asthma – the second common cause of cough
- Acid reflux – gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) arises once the stomach acid flows back into the esophagus with symptoms such as chest pain, heartburn, shortness of breath and wheezing. The irritation triggered by these symptoms can result to chronic cough.
- Postnasal drip and sinusitis – having frequent sinus infections can lead to postnasal drip and drainage can result to chronic cough
- Upper respiratory infections
- High blood pressure drugs
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Lung or airway cancers
Indications of chronic cough
Oftentimes, the cough itself is the only indication of chronic cough.
Other symptoms that might be present include:
- Stuffed or runny nose
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Postnasal drip
- Coughing up blood or phlegm
- Weight loss without any effort
- Throat pain
- Fever, usually higher than 101 degrees F
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent clearing of the throat
The treatment for chronic cough is based on the exact cause:
- If due to asthma, inhaled bronchodilators and/or steroids are given which reduce airway inflammation and wheezing.
- If brought about by GERD, various non-drug treatments and prescription medications might be used. The non-drug measures include elevating the head using pillows while lying down, avoidance of foods that trigger acid reflux and avoid eating before bedtime. The prescription medications such as esomeprazole, omeprazole and cimetidine are given to lower the stomach acid.
- If bacterial pneumonia or bronchitis is the cause, antibiotics such as azithromycin or cefuroxime are prescribed.
- If the cause is postnasal drip, over-the-counter decongestants such as pseudoephedrine or diphenhydramine can be given to relieve the postnasal drip symptoms. If the cause is sinusitis, antibiotics might be given.
- If the cause is using specific high blood pressure medications, other high blood pressure medications might be prescribed.
- In case other treatments fail to work and chronic cough is severe, a cough suppressant such as codeine might be given.