A persistent cough can be a lot more than just an annoyance. It can be embarrassing when at work or out in public, cause you to lose sleep, and can even cause severe problems such as vomiting and rib fractures. If you can’t stop coughing, find out some potential reasons so you can get the treatment you need.
The Definition of a Chronic Cough
An occasional cough is normal and even healthy, as it helps clear the lungs of irritants and secretions that could lead to infection. But a cough that lasts at least eight weeks in adults or four weeks in children is considered chronic and requires medical attention.
Symptoms that may accompany a constant cough include:
• A runny or stuffy nose
• Postnasal drip, which feels like liquid running down the back of your throat
• Frequent throat clearing
• A sore throat
• A hoarse voice
• Wheezing and shortness of breath
• Heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth
• In rare cases, coughing up blood
Any time a cough brings up blood, causes difficulty breathing, or any other worrisome symptoms, you should seek immediate emergency medical attention.
Common Nose and Throat Causes of a Chronic Cough
The most common reasons for a persistent cough are smoking and postnasal drip due to mucus running down the back of your throat. Causes of a constant cough that we treat include:
Allergies. Your cough may be more prevalent during allergy season or after you’ve been exposed to certain chemicals or fragrances.
Chronic sinus infections. Persistent sinus drainage down the back of your throat can cause an annoying cough that is worse when you lie down or wake-up in the morning.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, it not only causes heartburn but can also cause a chronic cough. Laryngopharyngeal reflux, in which stomach acid flows up into the throat, also causes a cough.
Vocal fold disorder. Chronic cough can even be caused from a tightening of the vocal fold muscles.
Seeking Treatment for a Persistent Cough
You should see an ENT doctor if you have a chronic cough and can’t stop coughing even after drinking plenty of liquids, avoiding smoke, and using a humidifier in the room where you sleep.
After hearing your medical history and performing an exam, your doctor may change a medication that could be causing the cough, or may suggest you try medications such as:
• Nasal steroids
• Acid blockers
If these do not help, your doctor may order tests such as:
• Allergy testing
• X-rays or CT scans to check for evidence of chronic sinusitis
• Flexible Fiberoptic Laryngoscopy or Videostroboscopy to visualize the vocal folds and opening to the esophagus
Depending on findings, your doctor may prescribe allergy medications or antibiotics, refer you to a pulmonologist, or suggest lifestyle changes that can reduce your symptoms.
Sound Health Physicians Are Experts at Treating Chronic Coughs
You don’t have to keep missing out on sleep or avoiding time with friends and family because of your constant cough. The ENT doctors at Sound Health would love to talk to you about your problem and offer a treatment plan to cure your cough. Call us at (314) 332-1377 in Missouri or (618) 235-3687 in Illinois.