Having a cough occasionally is perfectly normal but having a chronic nagging cough over a long period of time can be an indication of an underlying medical problem. Coughing is the way that the body clears out foreign particles and secretions from the throat and lungs. Coughing also can help to prevent infection. There are however many different medical conditions that can lead to chronic cough such as:
Asthma is the common cause of chronic coughing in children, however many adults also can exhibit chronic coughing due to asthma and other bronchial conditions. An asthmatic person will often experience a chronic cough combined with shortness of breath and wheezing. An asthmatic cough can sometimes flair up after an upper respiratory infection, contact with known asthmatic triggers such as inhalation of chemicals or many other allergens.
GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, chronic acid reflux
GERD is when stomach acid backs up into the tube that connects the stomach to the throat, which can cause severe irritation in everything from the esophagus to the lungs. Acid reflux is the leading cause of heartburn and a person with GERD can often experience chronic coughing and throat clearing.
Allergies and nasal drainage
Many people who have chronic allergies have post nasal drip or bouts of nasal drainage that causes them to have to clear their throats frequently. Nasal drainage is caused by glands in the sinuses, nose and throat that produce mucus that cleans and keeps the nasal passages moisturized. However when a person has an allergy or sinus condition more mucus than normal may be produced therefore causing an excess of secretions. The excess of mucus will commonly cause inflammation or irritation that can trigger bouts of chronic coughing. Allergies or sinus infections can normally be treated with decongestants and medications that reduce the allergen effects and dry up the mucus secretions.
Upper respiratory tract infections
URI’s are often the result of a cold, pneumonia, or flu and are a common cause of severe coughing. Chronic coughing can often stay long after the upper respiratory infection has started to subside. The prolonged coughing is usually because the URI has left the airways inflamed and extremely sensitive to any irritant, however it can also mean that some of the respiratory infection is still lingering.
ACE or Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors are medications that are usually prescribed for hypertension and chronic heart failure. These types of medications have been known to cause a chronic cough in many people and the cough often begins about a week after starting the medication. Once the medication is discontinued the cough will normally subside within a few days.
Bronchitis is a medical condition that results from inflammation in the bronchial tubes. A person with bronchitis normally experiences respiratory congestion, wheezing, shortness of breath and severe coughing. Some symptoms of bronchitis are very similar to asthma, however most people who chronic bronchitis either presently smoke or are former smokers and the chronic coughing is a result of damage to the airways and lungs.
There are many other medical disorders that can produce a chronic cough including lung cancer, however lung cancer is often attributed to chronic smoking. However not all of the people who have lung cancer will have a chronic cough. If you have a chronic cough that produces sputum that is blood tinged it is wise to immediately contact a physician.
If you have any form of chronic coughing with or without any other symptoms, it is always wise to see a physician so that you can be evaluated immediately for any underlying medical condition and be properly treated.
I have been a nurse for many years and a person who has any form of chronic cough should never try and medicate themselves with OTC cough suppressants. Please see a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment, it could save your life.
References for this article include: www.medicinenet.com/chronic_cough/article.htm