The Chronic Cough Conundrum: Causes and Cures

 Everyone has experienced the aggravation of a cough that just won’t go away. After two months or more of non-stop coughing, emotions start to run high and people tend to get desperate, trying anything that could make the cough stop. After all, a chronic cough is more than an inconvenience; it can cause serious health problems, like fatigue, nausea, and even bone fractures.

However, not every cough treatment will work for every chronic cough. Before you can find a cure, you need to understand your cough’s causes. Here are some potential origins and remedies to sooth your chest and help you get back to health.


If It Started With a Cold

You know the signs and symptoms of a typical cold: the runny nose, the incessant sneezing, the endless fatigue, and (worst of all) the uncomfortable cough. If you can remember a time in the past couple months when you felt under the weather, your current chronic cough probably commenced then. However, as you likely know, your immune system should be able to overcome the average cold in about a week, so the fact that your cough has stuck around well after your other symptoms is a sign of something gone wrong.

A normal cold can develop into a more serious problem if you don’t treat it appropriately and immediately. During your cold, you might have continued to exercise, didn’t hydrate sufficiently, or were too stressed out, which would have significantly slowed the healing process. You may be suffering ramifications of your prolonged disease, such as an ear infection, a sinus infection, strep throat, bronchitis, or pneumonia, all of which have serious consequences when left untreated. To be safe, you should visit your doctor immediately to receive the proper medications for your enduring cold symptom.

 If It Started With Allergies

It is easy to confuse allergies and colds; after all they share many of the same signs and symptoms: stuffy nose, sore throat, weariness, and coughing. However, allergies and colds differ dramatically in how quickly they develop and how long they last. While it might take a few days for you to fully feel a cold, allergies hit hard and fast. If you can pinpoint the exact day your cough started, you are probably suffering from some sort of airborne allergic reaction.

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to tell when your allergies will go away without knowing exactly what triggered this immune response. If you usually get seasonal allergies, you may continue to suffer from your chronic cough for a few more weeks or even months ― until the weather changes and the plants stop producing pollen. Worse, if something in your home is acting as an allergen, like pet dander or mold spores, you could have a cough forever.

It is still a good idea to see your doctor to be certain your chronic cough comes from allergies, but there is little your doc can do to ease your pain aside from providing prescription antihistamines. You would do best to clean your home, stay inside, and avoid allergens as much as possible.

If It Started out of Nowhere 

As you might expect, a chronic cough with no discernable origin is potentially the most dangerous of them all. If you have been coughing for several weeks on end but you cannot recall a specific beginning date, something seriously wrong could be happening in your body.

The biggest risk factor for chronic cough isn’t an illness ― it’s smoking. Called smoker’s cough, the persistent hacking occurs because dense tobacco smoke prevents the lungs from naturally filtering out toxins. Switching to a smokeless form of nicotine, like gum, patches, or e-cigarettes, may allow your lungs time to detoxify and your cough to disappear.

Another unexpected cause of chronic cough has nothing to do with your lungs, but it has everything to do with your stomach. If you suffer from terrible acid reflux, you might have developed gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which tends to cause a dry, hacking cough. In fact, some estimates suggest that GERD is responsible for about 25 percent of chronic cough cases. GERD is a serious illness that requires intensive treatment, so if you suspect you have it, you should seek medical advice soon.

Finally, your cough might not be your fault at all. Dozens of medications list chronic cough as a common side effect; if you have a prescription to treat your asthma, blood pressure, cholesterol, osteoporosis, or seizures, you may want to ask your doctor to prescribe another type of medication that won’t give you an uncomfortable cough.