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Chronic Cough: What You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Sep 06, 2021

Chronic Cough: What You Need to Know

Facts about Chronic Cough

If a cough persists for weeks and interferes with your daily activities, then you might have a chronic cough.

A chronic cough, in itself, isn’t a disease. However, having a persistent cough might indicate an underlying condition. 

The best way to determine whether or not a chronic cough is a symptom of another condition, is knowing the most important facts about chronic cough. This includes its symptoms, complications, and proper treatment.

When does a cough becomes ‘chronic’?

What exactly characterizes a chronic cough? Typically, a cough can last for a few days, at most. This is especially true for those recovering from the flu or common cold.

The occasional cough can even be a good thing. A cough is the body’s way of expelling mucus or foreign objects that may harm your lungs. In the same way, sneezing helps rid the body of irritants in the nasal cavity.

However, a chronic cough can last 8 weeks or longer for adults. In children, a chronic cough can persist for 4 weeks or longer. 

What is a Dry Cough and Should I Be Worried About It?

Signs and Symptoms

A chronic cough is usually accompanied by other symptoms, which can help you find out what the underlying cause may be.

Chronic cough is typically accompanied by the following symptoms.

Facts about Chronic Cough Symptoms

  • A stuffy nose, like you have a cold that won’t go away.
  • Postnasal drip. This usually due to an accumulation of mucus at the back of the throat. 
  • Sore, itchy throat. This leads to the urge to clear the throat.
  • Hoarseness of voice, which usually occurs due to coughing.
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Heartburn, which is characterized by a burning sensation in your chest, which happens when stomach acid goes back up the esophagus.
  • Bloody phlegm. This happens in rare cases. So it’s best to consult a doctor if chronic cough happens with bloody phlegm.

A chronic cough left untreated can also cause numerous issues for your overall well-being. These can get in the way of your daily life.

Complications of Chronic Cough

Some of the most common complications that can result from chronic cough are the following.

  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Feeling discomfort in your chest
  • Headaches
  • Frustration and anxiety about your symptoms
  • Insomnia or interrupted sleep patterns
  • Incontinence 

Causes and Risk Factors

Since a chronic cough can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that has gone untreated, its possible causes are the conditions that need medication. Aside from this, chronic coughs can also be a result of harmful lifestyle habits like smoking. 

Smoker’s Cough

A “smoker’s cough” is a chronic cough developed over time by individuals who smoke cigarettes regularly. This cough is an indication of the irritation of the respiratory system caused by the harmful chemicals present in cigarettes. 

This type of chronic cough is more damaging than the chronic cough of a non-smoker because smoking often leads to severe medical conditions like bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, and possibly lung cancer.

facts about chronic cough

The Effects of Chronic Cough on Non-Smokers

If you’re a non-smoker, then these are the following possible causes of your nagging cough. It’s important to note that you may have a combination of these conditions, which can only be verified through a doctor’s visit.

Postnasal drip

People who are more prone to allergies suffer a pesky postnasal drip in addition to their allergies. Postnasal drip is characterized by the accumulation of mucus at the back of your throat, caused by excess mucus production in the sinuses. 


Many people suffer asthma, which can be triggered by numerous things: changes in weather or seasons, upper-respiratory tract infection, or only irritation from certain scents or substances, like perfume or pollen.

A common symptom of asthma is a persistent cough, together with shortness of breath or trouble breathing.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology states that people who are prone to asthma have higher chances of acquiring GERD because asthma attacks often cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. 

This condition is a digestive disorder that happens when food, fluids, or acidic gastric juices flow back into the esophagus. 

Blood Pressure Medication

Some drugs used to treat high blood pressure or heart failure can cause chronic coughing in some individuals.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a term used to refer to a group of lung conditions that can cause breathing problems. 

The conditions that fall under COPD are namely emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Emphysema refers to damage to the air sacs in the lungs, while chronic bronchitis is when the airways are inflamed over a long time. COPD is commonly found among smokers, and when left untreated, they can permanently affect the way a person breathes.

facts about chronic cough

Diagnosis and Treatment

To determine the appropriate treatment for chronic coughing, you must first consult your doctor. When you experience a cough for a few weeks, coupled with a sudden weight loss, fever, or bloody sputum, it’s time to consult with a professional. 

Phlegm Color Meanings, Decoded

During your doctor’s appointment, expect several tests so that your doctor will be able to determine the primary cause of your chronic coughing. Your doctor may perform an acid reflux test, an endoscopy, or an x-ray are just some tests that will help your doctor find out what’s causing the cough. 

Key Takeaways

Chronic coughing can often be annoying and get in the way of daily life. A case of chronic coughing only goes away once you’re able to determine the root cause with your doctor. For the best and most effective treatment, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional. 

Learn more about respiratory health, here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Sep 06, 2021

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