A recurring cough is typically categorized as a chronic cough if it lasts for more than eight weeks for adults or four weeks for children and is one of the top reasons Americans visit their doctor. While a chronic cough isn’t a disease, it could be a symptom of a more severe condition in your lungs as it is your body’s way of protecting your airways and expelling foreign bodies such as germs. When a cough lasts for less than three weeks, it is generally due to a viral infection; however, if your cough is persistent, you should seek medical attention immediately. In this guide, we will cover the common causes of recurring coughs and the conditions it could signify.
What Causes Coughing?
The lining of your throat is extremely sensitive to touch, taste, position, and temperature, which you can typically feel while breathing and eating. As an essential part of your body, the throat is responsible for ensuring food and air go into the right tubes in order to avoid choking, as the primary job of your throat is to keep the airway clear so that you can breathe.
Coughing is a fundamental function of the throat to keep your body healthy. However, when a cough lasts for a long period of time, it can have a significant impact on your daily life; excessive coughing can keep you awake at night, which can make your days miserable due to tiredness and muscle pain. When you have a recurring cough, it’s important to find out with the help of a medical professional why it won’t go away.
COPD is a chronic lung condition, also called chronic bronchitis or emphysema, which is typically found in current or former smokers. COPD is simple to diagnose with a spirometry involving blowing into a machine to measure your breath. Those who have COPD are generally over the age of 35 and suffer from a chronic cough, wheezing sensations, bring up sputum frequently, and bronchitis.
Cancer is always a worry when you have a recurring cough, as many doctors have been recommending that any cough lasting longer than three weeks or is accompanied by blood or rusty-colored sputum should be followed up with a medical professional in order to rule out cancer. If you’re over the age of 40 and have symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, weight loss, or loss of appetite, many doctors will recommend an immediate chest X-ray. During the X-ray, your doctor may find a benign lung tumor, which can be stressful news for anyone worried about their health. However, most of the time, this is nothing to worry about, and if you’re looking for expert advice, Ezra can help provide you with more information on benign lung tumors.
Typically, asthma starts in childhood; however, it can also start later in life due to external environmental factors such as smoking and working with chemicals or fumes. This can irritate your airways, leading to a persistent cough. Whether you have asthma from childhood or develop it as an adult, it can be easily treated with inhalers.
Your upper airways can become irritated by postnasal dripping, which is often caused by colds, allergies, or chronic sinusitis. Treatments for this condition vary depending on the severity of your symptoms, how long you’ve had it, and if you have polyps on your sinuses. For example, allergies such as hay fever or rhinitis can typically be treated with antihistamine tablets and nasal sprays.
When people think about acid reflux, their first thought is typically heartburn and the pain situated around the breastbone that is normally associated with heartburn. However, it can also give you an acid taste in your mouth as the acid rises up to your throat, and this can cause irritation. Acid reflux is one of the most common causes of a persistent cough, and there are many solutions for treating it, including losing weight, anti-acid medication, avoiding late-night meals, and not wearing night pants or belts.
When you have problems with your heart and your blood isn’t being pumped around your body efficiently, it can cause a build-up of fluid in your lungs. While not strictly heart failure, this condition is typically referred to as heart failure and involves shortness of breath and swollen ankles, as well as frequently waking up at night gasping for breath. Treatments for heart failure have significantly improved in recent years, and if you are struggling with any of the symptoms above, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Some medications, typically those used to treat high blood pressure, can lead to a dry and irritating cough. In some cases, symptoms caused by these medications can develop months or years after taking them without previous issues, and it is something your doctor can help you rule out when looking into the cause of your recurring cough.