What is Chronic Cough?
A cough is considered chronic if it lasts 8 weeks or longer. Some common causes of chronic cough are allergies, acid reflux, smoking, asthma or other lung diseases, and infections. This type of cough usually is dry and not productive. In severe cases the ‘coughing fit’ can trigger laryngospasm, which results in difficulty breathing. Often chest x-rays, CT scan of the chest and other tests are normal in individuals with longstanding dry chronic cough.
A thorough medical evaluation is necessary to determine the cause or the contributing factors for chronic cough. Often a variety of tests are necessary to determine the cause of the cough.
How Can Chronic Cough be Treated?
Chronic cough is treated based on the underlying cause. However, if the underlying cause of the cough is not established and if the cough is dry and non-productive, it is best treated with medication as well as behavior management strategies. The physician will determine the specific medication based on the specific triggers of the cough. The following drugs may be prescribed depending on the cause of the cough: proton pump inhibitors for reflux management, antihistamines, inhaled corticosteroids, amitriptyline, neurontin. Life style changes for reflux include smoking cessation and increasing water intake. A speech language pathologist assists in retraining and reducing the frequency of cough with behavioral management strategies. Eliminating and modifying triggering agents for cough is also necessary.