coughing woman

Understanding and Managing Chronic Cough: Causes and Solutions

  • Coughing is a common symptom often associated with asthma, acid reflux, and COPD.
  • Some medications and postnasal drip can also cause a persistent cough.
  • Chronic cough could signify a post-COVID symptom called ‘Long COVID.’
  • Drinking fluids, avoiding irritants, and practicing good hygiene can help manage cough symptoms.
  • Seeking medical attention for a persistent cough is crucial for diagnosing underlying health issues.

Coughing is a common symptom that everyone has experienced at least once in their lifetime. The occasional cough is usually not a cause for concern and can go away on its own or with the help of simple remedies. However, it could be a sign of a chronic cough when you have been coughing for over two months with no improvement. A chronic cough can be tiring, uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful. Here’s what you need to know about coughs, common reasons for chronic coughs, and ways to deal with them.

Why Do People Cough?

Coughing is a natural reflex that helps clear the airways of mucus, irritants, and foreign particles. It is usually triggered by irritation or inflammation in the throat, lungs, or air passages. It’s a natural process, but what’s not natural is when it persists for a long time. Many factors can contribute to a chronic cough. Here are some of them:

Asthma outdoors

1. Asthma

Asthma is a long-term respiratory condition that affects the airways, making breathing difficult. One of the symptoms of asthma is a persistent cough. The asthma cough is usually more noticeable at night or early in the morning. If you have asthma, you may also experience wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. The treatment of asthma includes medication to control inflammation and bronchodilators to relieve symptoms. Working with your doctor to manage your asthma symptoms is essential.

2. Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when the stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. A chronic cough is a prevalent symptom of acid reflux. When the acid irritates the esophagus, it can trigger the cough reflex. Treatment for acid reflux may include medications that reduce acid production and lifestyle changes like avoiding large meals and acidic foods, losing weight, and elevating the head of the bed.

3. Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip happens when mucus from the nasal passages drips down the back of the throat, triggering the cough reflex. A chronic cough due to postnasal drip is usually worse at night. The treatment for postnasal drip includes medications like antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays. You can also try breathing in steam or using a humidifier to help thin the mucus and make it easier to cough up.

4. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a long-term respiratory condition that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. A chronic cough is a common symptom of COPD. The cough may produce a lot of sputum or mucus. Other symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. Treatment for COPD includes medications that help reduce inflammation and relax the airways. Oxygen therapy may also be necessary in severe cases.

Medication for people

5. Medication Side Effects

Some medications may cause a chronic cough as a side effect. Examples of such medications include ACE inhibitors used to lower blood pressure and some medications used to treat heart disease and arrhythmias. If you suspect a medication is causing your cough, talk to your doctor about alternatives.

6. Long COVID

Lastly, one of the most recent reasons for chronic cough is COVID. Many people who have recovered from COVID-19 experience lingering symptoms, including a persistent cough. While the exact cause of this post-COVID symptom is still being studied, some possible explanations include lung scarring, inflammation, or damage to the nerves that control coughing. You must undergo a reputable long COVID treatment if you ever experience this symptom. The treatment can include a combination of medications, breathing exercises, and lifestyle changes.

Dealing with Chronic Cough

Dealing with a chronic cough can be challenging, but there are some ways to help manage the symptoms:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids to thin out mucus and make it easier to cough up.
  • Try over-the-counter cough suppressants or throat lozenges to soothe your throat and reduce the urge to cough.
  • Avoid irritants like smoke, pollution, and chemicals that can worsen a chronic cough.
  • Practice good hand hygiene to prevent respiratory infections that trigger or aggravate a chronic cough.
  • Use a humidifier or steamy showers to help loosen mucus and ease coughing.
  • Consider practicing deep breathing exercises to help strengthen your respiratory muscles and improve lung function.

If your chronic cough persists despite these measures, it’s essential to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. While a chronic cough may not seem severe, ignoring it could lead to underlying health issues. Take care of yourself and seek medical attention when needed. There are many potential reasons for a chronic cough, and understanding the cause is crucial in finding the best treatment plan. Remember to manage your respiratory health by maintaining good hygiene, avoiding triggers, and seeking medical care when necessary. Don’t let a chronic cough disrupt your daily life – seek help and find relief from this persistent symptom.

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