It’s annoying to sit next to someone who just keeps coughing. What’s worse, is when that someone is you. The coughing reflex has an important purpose, but what do you do when it doesn’t go away?
When you cough, you bring up mucous and harmful substances from your airways: it keeps your airways clear, so you can get oxygen into your lungs. You could also cough if you’re i’ll, and your lungs secrete mucous to get rid of the germs.
Most coughs only last for a few days or weeks and then you feel better, but when . If your cough lasts for eight weeks or more, we call it a ‘chronic cough’.
A normal cough shouldn’t cause too much discomfort, but a chronic cough can leave you feeling exhausted, cause you to vomit, feel lightheaded and even interrupt your sleep. A chronic cough usually has a hidden trigger and if it’s found, it can be treated.
Other symptoms that can accompany a chronic cough include:
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Liquid running down the back of your throat (postnasal drip)
- Frequent throat clearing and a sore throat
- A hoarse throat
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth
- In rare cases, coughing up blood
There are a few unexpected chronic coughing triggers. These include:
If your nose or sinuses make too much mucous, it can drip down the back of your throat. This condition is also called upper airway syndrome (UACS) and may trigger your cough reflex, causing chronic coughing.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Your oesophagus is a tube that connects your stomach and throat. If you have GERD, stomach acid flows back into the tube. This causes a constant irritation which may lead to chronic coughing. This also makes the symptoms of GERD worse.
In one type of asthma called cough variant asthma, coughing is the main symptom. Asthma-related coughs usually come and go with seasons and triggers, but because of the condition, the lining of the airway is swollen and inflamed. Air pollution, certain chemicals, being exposed to cold air, dust, pollen and stress are common triggers for asthma symptoms. Other symptoms include wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.
In some cases, the heart and coughing could be related. With heart failure, blood backs up in the pulmonary veins and fluid leaks into the lungs. The fluid build-up may cause chronic coughing and wheezing. The American Heart Association says that if you have a chronic cough, and symptoms like coughing up white or pink coloured mucous, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue, light headedness, and a fast heartbeat, you should see a doctor.
Smoking-related illnesses are major culprits of chronic coughing. Chronic bronchitis causes inflammation in the major airways. A common symptom of this condition is chronic coughing that brings up colour fluids. Most people with this condition are current or past smokers. Besides chronic bronchitis, smokers can also develop “smoker’s cough” which is chronic, too. There are thousands of harmful chemicals in tobacco and when they’re released into the body, the body tries to remove them which can make you cough.