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Cough Not Improving: Ways to Treat and Prevent Chronic Cough

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Mar 28, 2023

    Cough Not Improving: Ways to Treat and Prevent Chronic Cough

    A chronic or nagging cough can be vexing beyond measure. Though, this is a sign of how your body reacts or rather fights when you’re ill or when your lungs are irritated. Most coughs tend to go away within three weeks and are not a big issue. But, the consistent choking in your throat may persist. Also, constant cough for weeks beyond three weeks is not a good sign.

    A chronic or nagging cough that stretches up to eight weeks in adults and four weeks in children. It would require immediate medical attention, especially if they occur without the accompanying cold or flu. If your cough persists longer than the usual period, consult your doctor right away. This can be due to a more severe issue than just a bacterial or viral infection.

    In this article, we will talk about the 9 most common reasons why your cough is not improving, how you can prevent a cough, and what home remedies can help ease a nagging cough.

    Nagging Cough: Why is Your Cough Not Improving?

    Dry air

    Extremely dry air or humid air can be one of the foremost reasons for a constant, nagging cough. This is also why many are consistently coughing during the cold or rainy season. If you’re also persistently in a hot environment, it can prolong this cough. Asthma patients can be triggered because of this.

    Blood pressure medication

    ACE inhibitors are common medications used to treat high blood pressure or hypertension. They can cause a chronic, nagging, dry cough. This can be because of the reaction they cause in the respiratory tract. If you have been prescribed an ACE inhibitor and have developed a dry cough post it, ask your doctor for a replacement.


    Habitual tobacco users have a dry cough also known as a smoker’s cough. This is because when they inhale the tobacco smoke, their body tries to push out the unknown chemical that enters their airways and lungs.

    This cough develops after consistent chain-smoking for three weeks or so. Even though initially it is a dry cough, it later produces phlegm, and this is why your cough not improving.

    Other health issues

    Asthma or allergies like a dust allergy are a common source of a constant, nagging cough. Many people don’t realize they have asthma until they get a cold that makes them breathless beyond measure.

    Therefore, if you have been feeling short of breath because of coughing lately, get it checked right away.

    Another underlying reason could be acid reflux or obstructive sleep apnea. For acid reflux, some common symptoms are heartburn, excessive burping or regurgitation, and a constant cough.

    For obstructive sleep apnea, the symptoms can be insomnia, excessive gasping or choking while sleeping, and loud snoring.

    Both of these conditions are treatable and should not be prolonged.

    nagging cough

    Less fluid intake

    When you have a cough, your tract requires humidification because of the consistent friction caused by all the coughing. If you don’t load up on liquids, then your cough will continue with an additional dryness. When you drink hot liquids like herbal teas, room temperature juices, concoctions, and water, it helps loosen up the mucus and get it out. So, if your cough’s not improving, this could be one reason.

    Too much stress

    Even though an underrated reason, stress can cause a chronic dry, nagging cough. Taking too much stress can mean less sleep and consequently an unhealthy body. The first step to counter a cough caused by stress would be to sleep.

    Nasal spray

    There are many nasal decongestant sprays that are available in the market. Even though these cause temporary relief, they can be the reason for a constant cough. These sprays cause a reaction in the nasal membranes that swell when directly inhaled and can cause cough.

    Prolonged use of certain nasal sprays can cause dryness of the passages, resulting in a cough, and this is also why your cough is not improving.


    A viral or bacterial infection is the most common reason for a dry cough. Even though this goes away in a few days, a constant cough can remain longer than the actual infection.

    The virus can make your airways extremely sensitive, thereby making them prone to constant cough for weeks.

    Post-infection period

    Sometimes, you won’t get a cough during an infection but rather after it. As mentioned above, this cough can be due to the sensitivity caused by the virus. This also makes your immune system extremely vulnerable to developing a cough that occurs after you’re done with a cold or flu.

    How Can You Prevent a Nagging Cough?

    1. Stay away from sick people, especially those who are experiencing severe colds and cough. If you have the infection yourself, stay away from public places or avoid getting out of the house.
    2. Sanitize and disinfect your workstation, house, or any other place that you usually visit. A thorough cleanse once a day will help clean surfaces that can have bacteria stuck on them.
    3. Change your clothes as soon as you come back from a public place. This will help ensure that any bacteria on it does not get around the house.
    4. Maintain a healthy active lifestyle with a good diet, exercise plan, and regular check-ups.
    5. Avoid any triggers that might worsen your cough, if you have an ongoing one. For example, if you have asthma, make sure your air conditioners purify the air during the pollen season.
    6. Consider using a humidifier or take a steamy shower to moisturize the air.
    7. Staying hydrated is an important part of preventing infection in the first place.
    8. Getting proper sleep will ensure that your body repairs well while you’re at rest. Therefore, make sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep daily.
    9. Washing your hands is an essential step for preventing a constant cough and cold. Bacteria can remain on your hands and travel inside your system if you eat with the same hands or even touch your face very often.

    Home Remedies to Counter Chronic or Nagging Cough

    Warm fluids

    This includes hot teas, infused herbal homemade waters, or even room temperature water, which can help alleviate a cough. Fluids will ensure that the mucus loosens up and gets out of your system. Peppermint tea with honey is also very helpful in relieving chronic cough.


    This fruit has an enzyme, Bromelain, which can help loosen the mucus stuck in your throat and at the back of your nose as well. It can help repress your cough. All you need to do is eat pineapple three times a day or drink room temperature freshly squeezed pineapple juice.


    The evaporating hot water aids the nasal blockage to open the airway, and travels down to the sore throat to provide relief. You can add essential oils like eucalyptus oil before inhaling the steam.


    For example, yogurt or buttermilk contain probiotics that are gut-friendly and indirectly strengthen your immunity to fight the infection or bacteria causing the cold or cough. Consuming them daily can go a long way.

    Make sure to consult your doctor if your cough’s not improving even after making the most of the home remedies mentioned in this article. Chronic cough for weeks can be related to a serious underlying health issue, and therefore should not be ignored.

    Learn more about managing cough and other respiratory issues here.


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

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Mar 28, 2023

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