Coughing is a natural reflex that is important in keeping your lungs and airways clear of debris. While coughing is often not bothersome, a persistent cough that does not seem to go away is both bothersome and may be related to an illness. There are 3 different types of cough: acute, subacute and chronic.
Acute coughs usually only last up to about 3 weeks. This cough may be either productive (produces mucus) or non-productive (dry, no mucous). Acute cough is usually caused by the following illnesses:
- sinus infection
- whooping cough
- pulmonary embolism
Subacute coughs typically last between 3 to 8 weeks. The subacute cough may need to be evaluated by a physician depending upon the severity of symptoms, as 60% of subacute coughs spontaneously resolve. In other words, there's a pretty good chance of a subacute cough going away on its own. Common causes of a subacute cough include:
- post-infectious cough (most common)
- post-nasal drip
- cough-variant asthma
- eosinophilic bronchitis
Chronic coughs last for greater than 8 weeks. Causes of the chronic cough can sometimes be difficult to isolate. To help isolate the cause of your chronic cough, your doctor may find it necessary to run several tests or even recommend that you see another specialist. Common causes of chronic cough include:
- post-nasal drip
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- medications, notably ACE inhibitors
- heart failure
- lung cancer (rare)
Treatment is targeted to the specific cause of the cough. Our physician will take a thorough history to look for likely causes of a cough. Medications such as antihistamines and decongestants may be prescribed to treat the cough.
Rex ENT Specialists can help you with your cough. Dr. John A. Garside, M.D., specializes in treating ear, nose and throat disorders in adults and children.