Coughing helps to clear foreign substances from your lungs and keep your upper air passages clear. A chronic cough is defined as a cough that lasts more than 8 weeks (or 4 weeks for children) and is one of the most common complaints addressed in family medicine. Typically chronic coughs are symptoms of other disorders, including asthma, allergies, acid reflux or sinus problems. A chronic cough may also be the result of smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke or an infectious disease.
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If left untreated, a chronic cough can lead to complications such as headaches, dizziness, urinary incontinence, fractured ribs, sore abdominal muscles, excessive sweating, and even conditions such as COPD or emphysema. Healing a chronic cough depends largely on identifying and treating the underlying cause of the cough. If you have a chronic cough, see your doctor: while it’s usually not a serious symptom, it can be a sign of serious diseases including lung cancer.
Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water. In general, it’s recommended that men drink about 13 cups (3 liters) of water a day, and women drink about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of water a day. Not only will the fluids help soothe your throat, calming irritation that is causing you to cough, but they can also help thin the secretions in the throat.
Treating the Underlying Condition
Visit your doctor.
If your cough does not go away, you should make an appointment with your doctor. She will be able to determine the source of the cough and treat it accordingly.
Although it can be difficult to pinpoint the underlying cause of the cough, it is essential to do since in most cases, a chronic cough disappears once the underlying condition is addressed and treated. The three most common causes of a chronic cough are asthma, postnasal drip, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These three causes are the reasons for 90% of all cases of chronic coughs.
Most doctors will begin by taking your full medical history and conducting a physical examination. In general, physicians will try treating one of the common underlying conditions of coughs and only if those treatments are unsuccessful will they conduct additional testing, including X-rays, CT (Computerized tomography) scans, bacterial tests, lung function (spirometry) tests, etc.
Your doctor will also ask you what medicines you’re taking. Sometimes, prescription medications can cause a cough. ACE inhibitors, used to treat high blood pressure, are common culprits behind chronic coughs.
In the case of a child, the doctor may initiate testing, including a chest X-ray and spirometry test, if the history and physical exam don’t reveal a clear cause.