What is a Chronic cough?
Most coughs are short lived. They are a present during a brief illness such as when someone has a cold. However, some of these coughs can last up to 8 weeks.It is called a chronic cough.This is long enough for people to find it unbearable and seek medical attention. A persistent cough that is lasting longer than 3 weeks in some people may be concerning for lung cancer. Therefore it needs to be given attentions seriously and investigated.
A chronic cough is a cough that lasts longer than 8 weeks in adults or 4 weeks in children. Fortunately, most types of chronic coughs are treatable if the underlying cause is clearly recognized. It is important at this stage that a chest x-ray is obtained to exclude cancer. It will then exclude cancer from other chronic lung diseases associated with a normal chest x-ray.
If your chronic cough isn’t fading away and your chest x-ray is normal, these are the most common causes:
Asthma is a chronic disease that inflames and narrows the lungs’ airways, making breathing difficult. As a result the muscles around the airways tighten. The asthmatic cough is your body’s way of trying to get air into those restricted areas. A chronic cough may often be caused as a result of exacerbations of asthmatic conditions resulting due to exposure to cold air, allergens and smoke.
#2 Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is another reason for the long lingering chronic cough. With GERD, the stomach acid is allowed to return to your esophagus instead of being sent to your stomach. This is due to a weak strip of muscle around the lower part of the esophagus. As a result, it creates a chronic cough.
A chronic cough can be recognized to be caused due to GERD if it is accompanied by a heartburn or a sour taste in the mouth.
#3 Postnasal drip
One of the most prevalent causes of a persistent cough is postnasal drip.
Postnasal drip is caused as the linings of the nose, throat, airways, stomach and intestinal tract produce a substance called mucus. Mucus is a thick, wet liquid that moistens specific regions. This aids in the trapping and destruction of external invaders such as bacteria and viruses before they spread infection.
When there is excessive mucus production than usual, the excess comes out from the nose. This scenario is the postnasal drip. With the postnasal drip, patients feel the need to clear the throat all the time.
It brings about a cough, which is generally worse at night. In fact, one of the most prevalent causes of a persistent cough is postnasal drip.
#4 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a chronic condition of the lungs where there is airflow limitation due to narrow or obstructed airways. Long-term exposure to inhaled smoke or chemicals leading to frequent coughing in order to clear the excess mucus that is produced often causes COPD. Persistent cough that may be productive of phlegm is a predominant symptom of COPD. Therefore, in order to diagnose and treat COPD in order to decrease the pace of disease progression, it is essential to identify COPD.
#5 Cough Hypersensitivity
Chronic cough may also result due to Cough Hypersensitivity. Low levels of thermal, mechanical, or chemical exposure often triggers cough hCough hypersensitivity represents a presentation of a chronic cough, irrespective of underlying conditions.
This has also been known as a condition in which the cough is caused by stimuli that don’t usually cause cough, or a hypersensitivity to stimuli. The cough reflex has been demonstrated to have neuroplasticity, prompting a hyper-sensitive reaction over time as a result of chronic irritation caused by the cough.
Treatment of Chronic cough
Firstly, if the cough has been present for more than 8 weeks it is important to see a respiratory specialist to ensure that a chest x-ray is normal and identify the potential cause of the persistent cough. The doctor will arrange for investigations including blood tests, sputum cultures, lung function tests, and other radiological tests. Treatments should focus on the most likely underlying cause that results in Chronic cough.
The possible symptoms of a chronic cough that often go along with chronic cough are hoarse voice, heartburn, sore throat, stuffy nose and wheezing for a period of over 3 weeks. If the symptoms do not fade away within 3 weeks, it is essential to pay special attention and start treatment.
The following are the possible home remedies to manage chronic cough.
Liquids are important to keep the throat moist when there is a dry cough. This in turn helps reduce the scratchy irritation that prevails in the throat that causes an unavoidable sensation to cough.
Drinking fluids like water, juice, or electrolyte-containing fluids will help you replace the fluids and electrolytes you’ve lost while also loosening mucus. Therefore, staying hydrated with the intake of warm liquids and consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables is a great home remedy for chronic cough. Also consuming hot beverages would give immediate symptom relief from the discomfort arisen due to coughing.
Elevate your head while sleeping
Using extra pillows to elevate the head of the bed or sleeping with the head of the bed raised can decrease symptoms of postnasal drip and GERD.
Mucus can pool at the back of the throat at night and worsen cough during sleep and in the morning.
Decrease contact with allergens
Allergens cause chronic coughs through swelling and irritating the airways of the throat. Allergens such as dust, pet dander, pollen, mold and cigarette smoke often exacerbate symptoms of chronic cough.
When allergens enter the immune system the body creates overreactions as an intense response to flush away the allergen. This results in chronic cough. Ensuring reduced contact with allergens would reduce the density of inhaled irritants and help treat chronic cough.
lifestyle changes, change of workplace and paying more attention to ensure reduced exposure to known or suspected allergens can decrease contact with allergens.
Honey is a great remedy to soothe the throat. This treatment may not necessarily cure chronic cough but heals the throat that is irritated due to the prevalence of the cough. Honey is a demulcent and has antibacterial, antioxidant properties that help to coat the throat, promoting the healing process. Also, honey works better in relieving coughs than some over-the-counter cough suppressants.
Smokers develop chronic cough due to the body clearing out the chemicals that enter the airways and lungs through tobacco use. This is the smoker’s cough. The continued negligence of this symptom may lead to a variety of other conditions such as COPD, bronchitis and even lung cancer.
Quitting smoking may give the best results in fighting chronic cough and reducing the risk of recurrent chest infections. In order to quit smoking it is best to seek the advice of smoking cessation advisor for support. Avoiding triggers that encourage the smoking habit and use nicotine replacement therapy to reduce the cravings.
If symptoms continually worsen with fever of over 100˚F (38˚C), trouble breathing, choking or green, yellow, or bloody phlegm, it is vital to seek immediate medical assistance.