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.
The most common causes of chronic cough include:
gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), backflow of stomach acid into the lower esophagus
asthma, especially during flare-ups
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
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.
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.
Treatments for a chronic cough are based on the underlying cause and can include:
acid blockers to treat GERD
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.