When is a cough considered to be chronic?
A chronic cough is considered to be a cough that lasts eight or more weeks in adults and four weeks in children. A very severe chronic cough can disrupt sleep, cause lightheadedness, headache and vomiting, and in some cases, it may even result in broken ribs.
What causes a chronic cough?
The most common causes of chronic cough include:
- gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), backflow of stomach acid into the lower esophagus
- asthma, especially during flare-ups
- post-nasal drip
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- chronic bronchitis
- certain medications
A chronic cough is often associated with other symptoms such as stuffy nose, runny nose, hoarseness, heartburn, shortness of breath, sore throat and a frequent need to clear your throat. It may also become worse at night or any time you recline, as well as during and after periods of exertion.
How is a chronic cough diagnosed?
A chronic cough can have many underlying causes, which makes diagnosis a critical part of treatment. Diagnosing the cause of a chronic cough relies on a physical exam and personal history, a review of lifestyle habits, imaging tests like x-ray or CT scan, lung function tests or blood work. A thin, flexible tube called an endoscope may also be used to look inside the airways for possible causes.
How is a chronic cough treated?
Treatments for a chronic cough are based on the underlying cause and can include:
- asthma medication
- acid blockers to treat GERD
- cough suppressants
- antibiotics to treat infections
Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and avoiding allergens can also help. If you have a chronic cough, getting treatment as soon as possible is important for avoiding serious side effects and maintaining optimal health and wellness.