Coughing, while uncomfortable, actually serves a very useful purpose. Mucus or other foreign materials present in your airway can irritate your lungs, but coughing can help to loosen and expel the phlegm and any other unwanted substances.
Typically, coughing is short-lived. It may accompany the cold or flu, and usually subsides after a few days or weeks. If you continue to cough even after your other symptoms have subsided, or without another obvious cause, your cough could be something more serious.
A cough is classified as chronic when it lasts for eight or more weeks. Chronic coughing is usually very treatable, but its cause can vary widely.
Most often, a chronic cough is caused by:
This chronic disease already predisposes the airways in the lungs to inflammation and swelling, which makes coughing a common symptom. With asthma, coughing usually worsens at night or in the early morning.
2. Postnasal drip
Even after the symptoms of a cold, flu, or other respiratory infection pass, coughing may remain. Although your fever and stuffy nose may be long gone, the airway passages in the lungs are still sensitive and inflamed- causing the cough to persist.
3. Acid reflux or other gastrointestinal diseases like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
Heartburn is the main symptom associated with GERD, but coughing can also accompany stomach ailments because of the stomach acid that backs up into the esophagus. Wheezing and chest pain may also be present.
4. Infections like bronchitis or pneumonia
A more serious infection, like bronchitis or pneumonia, is usually the result of virus or bacteria. Antibiotics are often used to treat the infection, which will usually clear up in two or three weeks. Just like with the cold or flu, a cough will often continue far longer than the illness itself.
More often than not, tobacco smokers will develop a “smoker’s cough.” Inhalation of the noxious chemicals in cigarettes cause irritation to the lungs and airway. The best way to rid yourself of this type of cough is to quit smoking; there are a variety of resources available to help.
Occasionally, the cause of a chronic cough can be more serious and even life threatening. If your cough is accompanied by fever, shortness of breath, persistent chest pain, or weight loss, you should call your doctor immediately.
Regardless of the cause of your chronic cough, it’s best to visit your primary care physician or an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor who can diagnose and treat both the cough and its root cause.
For more information about chronic coughing or its cause, call call Marvel Clinic at 931-230-7056.