Exploring the Common Causes of a Persistent Chronic Cough

Coughing is a type of natural reflex and it occurs as a protective mechanism. The body produces a cough when an irritant is present to try and expel it from the body. A foreign irritant enters and gets into the trachea. This can trigger the coughing reflex. This is considered to be normal and the irritants may include mucus, a piece of food or smoke.

There are times when a cough is caused by a disease or condition in the body. In these cases, there might be damage to the lungs or other elements of the respiratory system. Issues, such as postnasal drip and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are also common culprits. With post nasal drip, the mucus dripping down can trigger a cough in the same way a foreign irritant can. With GERD, stomach acid can work its way up, irritating the upper respiratory tract if it refluxes high enough.

A chronic persistent cough can diminish a person’s quality of life. It can make sleeping difficult and can make it hard to work or tackle other daily responsibilities. This type of cough does not go away and is usually not caused by a simple irritant but an underlying disease or condition. In adults, a cough is generally considered to be chronic when it is present for at least eight weeks.

Top Five Causes of Chronic Persistent Cough

Postnasal drip is relatively common and is the result of throat and nose glands producing a continuous amount of mucus. This is produced to moisten nasal membranes, fight infection and filter out any foreign matter. In most cases, people will swallow the excess mucus and not even realize it is present. However, for others, the mucus can start accumulating in the throat, causing coughing. The persistent coughing associated with postnasal drip tends to be worse at night.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is characterized by stomach acids refluxing back into the esophagus. The esophageal lining can become irritated as a result. Issues with swallowing and heartburn are among the most common symptoms. However, when the stomach acids start to reflux at night, this can result in a chronic cough.

Chronic bronchitis is a condition where the lung’s airways are irritated or inflamed. These airways are called bronchial tubes. A thick mucus starts to form within them when they are irritated. This can eventually plug them up, resulting in air not getting into the lungs as easily. This form of bronchitis will last for at least three months. It is referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease when it occurs along with emphysema. Emphysema is characterized by the alveoli, which are tiny air sacs, being damaged. The primary symptom of both chronic bronchitis and COPD is a persistent, chronic cough. The cough is usually productive, bringing up mucus when it occurs.

Asthma occurs when the airways produce extra mucus, swell and narrow. As a result, it can be hard for the patient to breathe. Wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath are common. There are varying types and levels of severity with asthma. For some people, the attacks can be life-threatening while for others the condition is more of a nuisance. In some cases, someone might only have symptoms when they exercise, as a result of allergens, such as mold or pollen, or if they work in certain environments, such as those where there are gases, excess dust and chemical fumes present.

Infections can cause a chronic cough in some instances, especially when they affect the respiratory system. Examples include influenza or pneumonia. Even after the underlying infection has cleared from the body, it is possible for the cough to linger for several weeks.

Questions and Answers:

After learning more about the common causes of a chronic persistent cough, patients may have more questions to gain greater clarification. Here are some questions people frequently seek the answers to.

Q. Can Cough Syrup be Used for All Chronic Coughs?

A. In most cases, as long as the underlying cause has been determined, cough syrup is not recommended. The one exception would be at night if a chronic cough makes it difficult to sleep.

Q. What Are Common Cough Irritants?

Common irritants may include small food particles getting into the trachea, smoke, allergens, water getting into the trachea and harsh chemicals in the air.

Q. How Do Doctors Diagnose a Chronic Cough?

A physical examination, exploring a patient’s other symptoms and medical history and blood work are usually the first steps in diagnosis. Doctors might also consider imaging tests, scope tests and lung function testing.

Q. Are There Any Effective Self-Care Methods for a Chronic Cough?

Patients may be able to do some things in addition to prescribed treatment to better their cough. These include drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding smoke and using a humidifier to moisturize the air.

Q. When Should a Persistent Cough Be Evaluated?

If a cough is present for longer than one week, patients should consult a physician. Any cough that produces blood, interferes with normal daily activities or disturbs sleep should also be evaluated.

Disclaimer: The articles on this website are not meant to encourage the self-management of any health or wellness issue. Nor are they meant to encourage any one type of medical treatment. Treatment or advice used by a reader may have varying results, as each individual is different. Any article reader with a health-related question, is encouraged to seek a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider. The articles on this website should not be used to disregard any medical or health-related advice, nor should they be the root cause for delay in seeing a doctor or a certified health provider.

The articles on this website should not be used to start the use of dietary supplements or vitamins, natural or herbal products, homeopathic medicine or other mentioned products prior to a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider.

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