Stephenville, TX

Abilene, Stephenville and Brownwood, TX

Persistent Cough? Six Reasons and When You Need to be Worried

Woman with persistent cough trying to work from home

Most of the time, illness or allergies will be the cause of a cough. You cough a few times, or for a few days, and then it goes away. But if you find yourself coughing all day, every day, something going on.

But sometimes, coughs can last for a long time. You aren’t feeling sick but your cough is hanging around stubbornly. You cough at the supermarket, at the movies (and get a few dirty looks in the process), in your car, everywhere. And you’re really wondering: when will this cough go away?

Should I be concerned if I’m dealing with a persistent cough? Well, there are times when a persistent cough can be little more than aggravating; in other cases, it might be an indication of serious illness. It’s a good idea to try and figure out what’s going on in either case.

When you can’t stop coughing it’s pretty annoying

Persistent coughs can be rather obnoxious. That’s because a cough isn’t particularly a delicate experience. Those violent blasts of escaping air can have a negative effect on your life even if your persistent cough is fairly mild.

Your general quality of life can be affected by a persistent cough in a couple of ways:

  • Trouble eating: A cough that is really persistent can make eating somewhat of a challenge. That’s mostly because your esophagus can only handle one direction of flow at a time; if air is coming up, food is not able to go down (but it will probably come with some increased choking and coughing). As a result, a chronic cough can make eating a challenge.
  • Social stigma: Covid is still a serious threat for everybody. That’s justifiable and likely wise! In part due to this, however, anyone who coughs immediately becomes a persona non grata. People will attempt to keep their distance from you, avoid eye contact, and essentially pretend you don’t exist. Even if your cough isn’t contagious, you’ll probably still experience a high degree of social stigma. This will be an uncomfortable situation for anyone who has to go through it.
  • Trouble sleeping: Sleeping is all but out of the question when you keep coughing. When you’re starting to fall asleep and you’re woken by a coughing attack, nothing could be more annoying.

Identifying a persistent cough

So, how can you tell a persistent cough from a lingering cold? Well, duration is one of the easiest diagnostic factors: how long have you been coughing? A chronic persistent cough, in general, is one that lingers for more than 6-8 weeks.

Here are a few other symptoms that can come along with a persistent cough:

  • Losing weight
  • Sweating overnight
  • Post nasal drip
  • In some cases, a cough and a fever
  • Hoarseness
  • Heartburn
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • A sore throat (particularly if you’re clearing your throat frequently)

The intensity of these symptoms will differ on a case by case basis. You should have a conversation with your doctor about treatment solutions if you are encountering any of these symptoms.

What could be causing your persistent cough?

A persistent cough is not a disease itself, it’s typically a symptom of something else that’s happening in your body, so it’s a smart plan to get it checked out. Some of them are significant; some of them less so.

The most common causes include the following:

  • Medications: In some cases, your medications could cause a reaction that results in coughing. Your doctor should be pretty well versed in these reactions, so make sure to get a consultation. Often, it will be possible to swap out your medication for something less aggravating.
  • Digestive issues: A disease known as GERD or acid reflux can sometimes cause coughing. In these cases, your body is reacting to the stomach acid or bile that’s moving up your esophagus. It sounds terrible, and it is. In these cases, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your digestive issues.
  • Allergies: Sneezing is generally what most people think of when they consider allergies. But sometimes there are other reactions. Allergic reactions can also often cause coughing. If you determine that your persistent cough is more prevalent in the spring or summer, for example, you might want to ask your provider if they think you may be dealing with allergies. And in these situations, undergoing an allergy test can give you a lot of answers.
  • Lung diseases: Lots of lung diseases, like COPD, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis, can bring about chronic coughing. Asthma is relatively common and can often be effectively managed with lifestyle choices and medications. It’s harder, however, to treat diseases such as COPD. Over time, this degenerative disease can affect your breathing. Often, coughing is also a symptom.
  • These kinds of pulmonary diseases can’t necessarily be cured but they can be slowed.

  • Sinus problems: Under your eyes and behind your nose are cavities known as sinuses. Problems with your sinuses (such as infections) can trigger post nasal drip, and that post nasal drip can cause a cough. Sinus issues can be managed by medication or by surgery, depending on the root cause.
  • Smoking: This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone now, but smoking can trigger substantial issues for your general health. It can cause a chronic cough as well as all manner of other lung problems. If you’re lucky, this cough is the result of tar and other contaminants stuck in your lungs. If you’re less lucky, the cough will be caused by long-term damage that’s a direct result of your smoking. In either case, your lungs will thank you if you stop smoking immediately.

When to be concerned about your chronic cough

So, when should you worry? In most cases, your cough will go away on its own. The time to make an appointment with your provider is when your cough isn’t responding to over-the-counter medication and lingers for over 6-8 weeks.

Keeping an eye on the health of your lungs, pulmonary system, and throat is never a bad plan even if your cough does subside. Schedule an appointment with us right away!

References

https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd
https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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