Chronic Cough: Symptoms and Causes | Tampa General Hospital

Chronic Cough

One of the most common reasons for a visit to the doctor is chronic cough. The condition can be classified as a cough that lasts more than eight weeks in adults and more than four weeks in children.

Causes of Chronic Cough

There are a number of medical conditions that can lead to chronic cough. These include respiratory conditions such as:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis (a lung condition that results in the coughing up of mucus)
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cold and flu

Additionally, chronic cough can be a result of post-nasal drip brought on by sinusitis and allergies and is also a common side effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, a group of medications used to treat high blood pressure. However, in some instances, the cause of chronic cough may be idiopathic (unknown).

Individuals who are at the greatest risk of having chronic cough are those who:

  • Smoke
  • Are regularly exposed to dust or chemicals
  • Are obese

Symptoms of Chronic Cough

Because chronic cough itself is a symptom related to an underlying condition, there are no symptoms that specifically stem from this health problem. However, patients experiencing the following symptoms as a result of another condition may also suffer from chronic cough:

  • Runny nose
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Heartburn
  • Shallow breathing
  • Fever
  • Loss of weight without exercising
  • Consistent hoarseness in the voice
  • Coughing up phlegm or blood
  • Nightly sweats

Diagnosing Chronic Cough

Diagnosing the root cause of chronic cough can be challenging, since a number of contributing factors may be involved, but possible testing options include:

  • Lab tests
  • Lung function tests Imaging tests
  • Scoping studies

Treating Chronic Cough

Because there are such a wide range of conditions that can lead to chronic cough, the paths to treatment may vary. The dedicated healthcare professionals at Tampa General Hospital will determine a treatment plan that’s perfectly suited for your needs and the causes of your chronic cough.

Depending on your condition, we may initially recommend:

  • A possible change in any existing medication
  • Inhaled bronchodilators or steroids (for treating asthma)
  • Over-the-counter decongestants (for treating post-nasal drip)
  • Antibiotics (for treating sinusitis)

For patients with unexplained chronic cough (UCC), the following treatment options may be proposed:

  • Behavioral cough suppression therapy (BCSP)
  • Neuromodulators (for pain relief)
  • Laryngeal onabotulinumtoxinA injections