Many people are affected by chronic coughing; in fact, it’s one of the most common reasons cited for a doctor visit. A chronic cough is one that lasts for eight weeks in adults or four weeks in children. While the cause of chronic coughing is usually not life-threatening, coughing itself can cause a plethora of problems for patients. A lingering cough can cause sleeplessness, fatigue, impaired concentration, urinary incontinence, fainting, and broken ribs.
Some of the most common causes of a lingering cough include:
According to Harvard Medical School, post nasal drip is the leading cause of chronic cough. Post nasal drip is caused by excess mucus production that combats irritants in the nose. This excess mucus drips down the throat, causing a tickling sensation that triggers a cough.
Asthma and Allergies
We typically associate wheezing with asthma, but some patients with asthma don’t wheeze — they just cough. In fact, asthma accounts for about 25% of all cases of chronic cough. Allergens, dust, cold air or exercising may exacerbate cough-variant asthma.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is a severe form of acid reflux that typically induces heartburn, belching, a sour taste in the mouth and bad breath. However, approximately one-third of patients with GERD don’t experience those systems and, instead, are afflicted with constant coughing, recurrent laryngitis or sore throats.
Most common in smokers, chronic bronchitis may also be caused by long-term exposure to chemical air pollutants. This condition damages the bronchial tubes and causes inflammation that produces excess mucus and a chronic cough. If you’re a smoker suffering from chronic bronchitis, the best thing you can do is to quit smoking.
Angiotensin–Converting–Enzyme (Ace) Inhibitors
Since the 1980s, ACE inhibitors have been used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure and heart attacks. While an effective treatment, ACE inhibitors cause a chronic cough in up to 20% of patients. If your quality of life is diminished by a lingering cough associated with ACE inhibitor treatment, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.
We understand that chronic cough can have a big impact on your life. From preventing a good night’s rest or interrupting your social life, your doctor may need to run some tests. Keep in mind that only a physician can determine the cause of your nagging cough. If you’re experiencing fever, shortness of breath, weight loss, wheezing, chest pain, or are coughing up blood, consult a doctor immediately.