Chronic Cough

A chronic cough is your body’s reflex to clear your airways of mucus and the appearance of other foreign objects such as dust or smoke. It’s often harmless and a bodily reaction. Most coughs clear up within a few weeks and go away without treatment. For more persistent coughs, always consult your doctor to diagnose your problem early before it worsens.


A dry cough means it’s tickly and doesn’t produce any phlegm or thick mucus. A chesty cough means phlegm is produced to help relieve and clear your airways. Some of the main causes of short-term (acute) and persistent (chronic) coughs are arranged below.

Short-term coughs
An earwax blockage may cause the following symptoms:

  • the acting up of a long-term condition such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or chronic bronchitis
  • an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) that affects the throat, windpipe or sinuses which are prominently colds, flu, laryngitis, sinusitis or whooping cough
  • a lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) that affects your lungs or lower airways such as pneumonia or acute bronchitis.
  • allergies like allergic rhinitis or hay fever
  • inhaled dust or smoke

Persistent coughs
A persistent cough’s causes include:

  • asthma, which usually causes other symptoms, such as wheezing, loss of breath, an chest tightness.
  • an allergy.
  • postnasal drip – mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose, caused by a condition such as rhinitis or sinusitis
  • gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)– irritation from stomach fluid in the throat
  • smoking or a smoker’s cough can also be a symptom of COPD
  • bronchiectasis, where the airways of the lungs swell and widen abnormally
  • prescribed medicines, such as an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor), which is used to treat high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

In most cases, a dry or chesty cough is not that valuable but the doctor will need to know the color of your phlegm and how much of it produced, it’s usually worse if it’s in the darker greenish hue. A persistent cough can be a symptom of a more serious condition like lung cancer, heart failure, a pulmonary embolism (blood clot on the lung) or tuberculosis but it is very rare.
There’s usually no need to see your doctor if you have a cough for a week or two. Always should seek proper medical advice if you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks. Your cough is particularly severe if you cough up blood or experience shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or chest pain. Always check if you have any other worrying symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, a persistent change in your voice, or lumps or swellings in your neck. This can help pinpoint more accurately how to treat your cough.
Coughs in children often have similar causes as well. For example, respiratory tract infections, asthma and GORD can all affect children. Causes of coughs that are more mutually shared with children than adults include:

  • whooping cough is characterized as the forceful, hacking bouts of coughing, vomiting, and the whooping sound with each sharp intake of breath after coughing
  • bronchiolitis – a mild respiratory tract infection results in cold-like symptoms
  • croup – this causes a distinctive barking cough and a harsh sound called “stridor” when the child breathes in.

Dr. Kanwar Kelley is located at Orinda California and if you are suffering from Chronic Cough, don’t hesitate to make an appointment (925) 254-6710. He is an experienced physician in many illnesses who can guide your health in the right direction.

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