Treating a Persistent Cough

Coughing is a very routine and normal bodily function, but when it becomes persistent, it can become irritating and frustrating, causing you to worry. Understanding the symptoms, causes and treatment options for persistent cough is an important component of providing comprehensive primary care.

What is Persistent Cough?

Persistent cough, sometimes called “hacking cough” or “nagging cough,” is a period of coughing that lasts for at least 8 weeks in adults and 4 weeks in children. The most common causes for persistent cough include asthma, allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or bronchitis. Less commonly, it can be a sign of a more severe condition, such as a heart cough or lung disease.

Risk factors for persistent cough including:

Symptoms of Persistent Cough

A cough is ordinarily the result of something irritating the airways, which causes the muscles in both the chest and stomach to contract. The irritation also prompts the glottis that covers the airway to open quickly, which allows air to escape rapidly. This process produces a cough.

A cough can either be “dry” or “wet” – meaning there can be phlegm or just a dry tickle. The dry cough symptom is considered “non-productive” because it doesn’t produce mucus. Dry, persistent cough is common among smokers. A wet cough, meanwhile, is productive because it produces mucus or sputum.

Symptoms that accompany cough that could be a sign of a worse health problem include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing up a lot of mucus
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss

Effects of a Persistent Cough

Getting an accurate cough diagnosis is crucial for treatment planning. It is important to understand the root cause of the persistent cough to prescribe the best care plan that treats the illness rather than just the symptoms. Effects caused by persistent coughing can include:

  • affecting a person's ability to sleep well if coughing keeps them up at night
  • daytime fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating at work and school
  • headaches
  • dizziness

If you are struggling with a persistent cough and want to find answers, our Primary Care Services can provide the initial consultation and determine the best course of treatment for your symptoms.

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