Everyone experiences a cough from time to time, but some patients have long-lasting symptoms that can affect their overall health and quality of life. It may also be a symptom of a larger problem.
A cough is considered chronic when it lasts more than two months in adults or one month in children.
Anyone suffering from a persistent cough should seek a diagnosis for what’s causing the cough from an ENT doctor. If there is blood when you cough you should seek immediate medical attention.
What Causes Chronic Cough?
A cough is your body’s way of expelling a substance that is irritating the air passages. When cells lining the air passages become irritated, they trigger air in the lungs to be forced out under high pressure.
Chronic coughing can be triggered by a variety of factors. These include:
- Postnasal drip.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Upper respiratory tract infections.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (includes bronchitis and emphysema).
- Pertussis (whooping cough).
- Air pollution.
- ACE inhibitors (found in some medications used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease).
Smokers are most at risk for developing a chronic cough, as are those exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Cough?
You should contact your doctor if your cough is accompanied by fever, excessive phlegm production or blood; fails to improve after your other symptoms have disappeared; interferes with your daily activities or sleep; or you have difficulty breathing.
How Is Chronic Cough Treated?
Your doctor will discuss your medical history and give you a physical exam before administering diagnostic tests designed to determine the cause of your chronic cough. An imaging test (X-rays or CT scan), lung function test, lab tests and endoscopic tests of the trachea, nostrils and esophagus are all common.
Once the diagnosis is made, treatment can begin. If medications are prescribed, they may include:
- Asthma drugs.
- Acid blockers.
- Cough suppressants.
Home remedies incorporating lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or adjusting your diet to eliminate foods that trigger acid reflux, can also be effective.
Call Camino Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic at (408) 227-6300 for more information or to schedule an appointment.