A cough is the body’s protective response to release air through a semi-closed glottis to clear the lungs, trachea, and bronchi of any contaminants, irritants or secretions. However, if a cough lasts for over two months, it is a chronic condition for adults; if a cough lasts over a month, then it is a chronic condition for a child.
Chronic coughs can lead to insomnia, dizziness, and in severe cases, rib bruising or fracturing. However, a chronic cough is not a disease by itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. For instance, chronic coughs are prevalent in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), such as asthma or chronic bronchitis. Other causes of chronic coughing include hay fever, sinus issues, smoking or being around second-hand smoke, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
A chronic cough can cause a shortness of breath, a sore throat, postnasal drip, a stuffy nose, heartburn, hoarseness, and frequent throat clearing. It may be difficult for a person to be outdoors or in an area with smoke.
There are a vast number of possible causes for chronic coughing. Whilst some of the causes of chronic coughing are very rare, there are others that are definitely more common, and are a significant factor in the development of the condition.
One of the major causes is postnasal drip. This occurs when nasal and sinus secretions drain down the throat instead of draining out through the nose. The presence of mucus in the throat often results in a throaty cough.
Those with asthma often have a chronic cough. The chronic cough seen in asthma patients increases and decreases in frequency based upon the season and whether or not the patient is having an active asthma attack.
An often unrecognized cause of chronic coughing is gastrointestinal reflux commonly referred to as GERD. With GERD, acid from the stomach and oesophagus is pushed up into the throat, causing a burning sensation that leads to chronic coughing.
Lingering infections may also be a cause of chronic coughing. Those with a viral infection may have a cough that lingers on for weeks after all of the other symptoms have completely cleared.
Smoking and the lung diseases associated with it may cause chronic coughing too. This cough ranges from a dry, hacking cough to a cough that produces significant amounts of sputum.
To treat a chronic cough, a patient can try many at-home remedies, such as drinking tea with honey, taking throat lozenges, drinking lots of fluids, and gargling warm saltwater. Chronic coughs can also be solved if a person manages any secondary conditions, like asthma or GERD, and avoiding areas with allergens or smoke. If the chronic cough is whooping cough, then a person can take antibiotics and get a vaccine.
The means of preventing chronic cough is directly related to what the primary cause of the coughing is. If the cough is a result of postnasal drip, controlling allergies and infections are the best preventative measures.
GERD related chronic coughing is prevented by treating the GERD medically if necessary. Some GERD may be prevented by a change in diet. Avoiding spicy foods and eating smaller meals can help GERD symptoms.
Those with a asthma related chronic coughing will need to keep their asthma under tight control. Avoiding asthma triggers and faithfully taking all prescribed medications will prevent much asthma related chronic coughing.
Finally, never smoking will obviously help to prevent smoking related chronic cough. Those who are smokers should take advantage of the many means available to them to help quit smoking.