Chronic Cough Treatment

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Chronic Cough is a condition that can severely impact your quality of life if not addressed. There are various types of medical treatment available to ensure that your symptoms are minimised.

That’s why we’ve made this comprehensive guide that covers;

  • What chronic cough is
  • What its symptoms are
  • How it is diagnosed
  • What treatments are available
  • Strategies for prevention and management
  • Complications and prognosis
  • How and when to seek medical attention

That way, you’ll have everything you need to know about chronic cough, and how you can manage and treat it effectively. Keep reading for more information.

What is chronic cough?

Coughing is a reflex action that helps to clear the airways of irritants or secretions. However, Chronic cough is a persistent cough that lasts for eight weeks or more.

It can be a dry cough or a cough that produces phlegm or mucus. The cough may be constant or intermittent and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, or fatigue.

If left untreated, chronic cough can lead to complications such as rib fractures, exhaustion, or even depression. This is why it’s important to see a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan to manage chronic cough and improve quality of life.

How does chronic cough differ from acute cough?

Chronic cough lasts longer than acute cough, and can also indicate more serious underlying conditions.

By comparison, acute cough is a sudden and temporary cough that usually lasts less than three weeks and is often associated with a viral or bacterial infection, such as the common cold or the flu.

Another key difference between acute and chronic cough is the severity and frequency of the cough. Acute coughs are typically milder and less frequent, while chronic coughs can be severe, persistent, and disrupt daily activities, including sleep.

While acute cough is usually short-lived and resolves on its own, chronic cough requires medical evaluation and treatment to address the underlying cause and improve symptoms.

Symptoms of Chronic Cough

The primary symptom of chronic cough is, as the name suggests, a persistent cough that lasts for eight weeks or more. However, other symptoms of chronic cough can arise, depending on the underlying cause, such as;

Coughing up mucus or phlegm

In some cases, chronic cough may be productive, meaning it produces mucus or phlegm.

Shortness of breath

Chronic cough can cause difficulty breathing, particularly during exercise or physical activity.

Wheezing

Some people with chronic cough may experience a high-pitched whistling sound when they breathe, which is known as wheezing.

Chest pain

Chronic cough can cause discomfort or pain in the chest area, particularly during coughing spells.

Fatigue

Chronic cough can be exhausting and lead to feelings of tiredness or fatigue.

Difficulty sleeping

Chronic cough can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to insomnia or daytime sleepiness.

Gastrointestinal symptoms

Chronic cough may be associated with gastrointestinal symptoms, such as heartburn or regurgitation.

How is chronic cough diagnosed?

Chronic cough can be diagnosed through a combination of factors that include medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests.

The doctor will ask questions about the duration, frequency, and severity of the cough, as well as any associated symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or chest pain.

The doctor will also ask about any underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or GERD, and any medications or environmental factors that may be contributing to the cough.

Afterwards, the doctor will examine the chest, throat, and lungs to look for any signs of infection, inflammation, or obstruction. The doctor may also check for other physical symptoms such as swelling or tenderness in the throat or neck.

The doctor may order several diagnostic tests to help determine the underlying cause of the chronic cough. Or, they may refer the patient to a respiratory specialist for further testing.

What tests does Manse Medical provide to diagnose respiratory conditions such as chronic cough?

At Manse Medical Clinic, our respiratory testing service includes a range of lung function tests that measure the functionality of the lungs, including;

  • Spirometry, which requires the patient to breathe into a device called a spirometer; taking a breath in as big as they can, and breathing out as hard and fast as possible. This is usually performed while seated at least 3 times and takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.
  • DLCO Gas Transfer, which involves taking a deep breath in, holding the breath for approximately 10 seconds, and then breathing the air out.
  • Lung Volume Test, which is conducted in an airtight chamber, known as a body box. The respiratory specialist communicates with the patient through an intercom, instructing them on how to breathe during the test.
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests are particularly useful in the diagnosis of asthma by mimicking the process where you’re exposed to potential triggers. Lung function is assessed after each dose of a powder called Mannitol to measure if any changes have occurred.
  • 6 Minute Walk Test, where patients walk at a normal pace for six minutes, where the specialists monitor the response to any potential lung, heart and other health issues.

What are the common causes of chronic cough?

Because chronic cough is usually an indicator of an underlying condition, there are many causes of chronic cough, including;

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, which can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD is a progressive lung disease that causes obstructed airflow, leading to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD is a condition where stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus, causing irritation and inflammation, which can lead to chronic coughing.

Postnasal drip

Postnasal drip occurs when excess mucus from the nose drips down the back of the throat, causing irritation and coughing.

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term inflammation of the bronchial tubes, leading to coughing, wheezing, and the production of excess mucus.

Respiratory tract infections

Chronic cough can also be caused by respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or tuberculosis.

Lung cancer

Chronic cough can be a symptom of lung cancer, particularly if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain, weight loss, or coughing up blood.

Environmental irritants

Chronic cough can be caused by exposure to environmental irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, or chemicals in the workplace.

Previously prescribed medications

Some medications, such as ACE inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure, can cause chronic cough as a side effect.

What are the treatment options for chronic cough?

There are various treatment options for the effective management of chronic cough, including;

Medications

Depending on the cause of the chronic cough, your doctor may prescribe medications such as bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroids, antihistamines, or proton pump inhibitors to help manage symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

Certain lifestyle changes can help reduce chronic coughing. These may include avoiding environmental irritants such as smoke or pollution, staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and avoiding foods that trigger acid reflux.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

For individuals with lung diseases such as COPD or bronchitis, pulmonary rehabilitation programs can help improve lung function and reduce chronic coughing.

Surgery

In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to treat the underlying cause of chronic cough, such as removing a tumour or repairing a hernia.

Speech therapy

For individuals with chronic cough due to habit cough or a neurological condition, speech therapy may be recommended to help retrain the cough reflex.

When your chronic cough is diagnosed, and the underlying conditions are identified, you will be provided with a treatment plan that will outline the treatments needed to provide you with adequate relief.

How can I prevent chronic cough?

In addition to treatments for existing chronic cough, there are also strategies that you can use to prevent chronic cough, including;

  • Quitting smoking, as that is a major cause of chronic cough
  • Avoiding exposure to irritants such as smoke, pollution, or chemicals in the workplace can trigger chronic coughing
  • Practising good hygiene, washing your hands regularly and avoiding close contact with individuals who have respiratory infections to reduce your risk of developing infections that can cause chronic cough
  • Getting vaccinated, as vaccines can help prevent respiratory infections such as flu and pneumonia, which can lead to chronic cough
  • Working with your healthcare provider to manage underlying conditions you may have such as asthma, GERD, or chronic bronchitis
  • Staying hydrated, as drinking plenty of fluids can help thin out mucus and reduce coughing
  • Practising good sleep hygiene, as elevating your head during sleep can help prevent acid reflux and reduce coughing at night

What are the potential complications of chronic cough?

If left untreated, chronic cough can lead to other conditions, such as;

  • Exhaustion
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Hoarseness
  • Rib fractures
  • Collapsed lung a.k.a. pneumothorax
  • Depression and anxiety

When should I seek medical attention for a chronic cough?

If you suspect that you have a chronic cough, it is important to seek medical attention quickly to identify the underlying cause. Signs that you may have chronic cough include;

  • Your cough persisting for longer than eight weeks
  • You are experiencing other symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, or weight loss
  • You have a history of smoking or exposure to environmental irritants such as pollution, chemicals, or dust
  • You have underlying health conditions such as asthma, GERD, or chronic bronchitis
  • Your cough is interfering with your daily activities or sleep

 

Chronic Cough FAQs

When should I seek medical attention for chronic cough?

If a cough persists for more than eight weeks, is associated with other concerning symptoms, or if there’s difficulty breathing, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation.

Is chronic cough contagious?

Chronic cough itself is not contagious, as it is a symptom rather than a specific illness. However, if the underlying cause is an infectious condition, such as a respiratory infection, the infection itself may be contagious.

Can stress or anxiety contribute to chronic cough?

Yes, stress and anxiety can exacerbate chronic cough in some individuals. While not a direct cause, managing stress through relaxation techniques or counseling may help improve symptoms.

Can chronic cough lead to complications?

Prolonged coughing can strain chest muscles, cause fatigue, and lead to disruptions in sleep. In some cases, it may result in complications such as fractured ribs or fainting. Seeking timely medical attention can help prevent such complications.

Is a persistent cough always a sign of a serious health issue?

While a persistent cough can indicate an underlying problem, not all cases are necessarily serious. However, it’s essential to identify the cause through proper medical evaluation to rule out any potential serious conditions.

Is chronic cough more common in certain age groups?

While chronic cough can affect people of all ages, it is more prevalent in older adults. However, it still can occur in children as well, and the causes may vary based on age and health conditions.

What role does medication play in treating chronic cough?

Medications play a crucial role in treating chronic cough by targeting the underlying causes. The goal is to alleviate the irritation or inflammation triggering the cough, providing relief and improving the overall quality of life for individuals with chronic cough.

Can chronic cough affect sleep quality?

Certainly. The persistent coughing can disrupt normal sleep patterns, leading to frequent awakenings during the night. Addressing the root cause of the chronic cough is essential not only for managing the cough but also for restoring healthy sleep patterns.

How do I contact Manse Medical for chronic cough treatment?

Manse Medical is a sleep clinic with multiple locations. We aim to provide the highest level of care for patients with respiratory disorders.

Book your appointment online by selecting your preferred clinic and choosing from the list of available specialists.

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