Did you know that “cough” is the most common reason why people seek care from a medical provider? Many causes of cough can be “acute” or short-lasting, such as a cough during a viral upper respiratory infection or during an asthma flare. However, some people suffer from chronic cough, which is a cough that lasts longer than 8 weeks. Chronic cough can be extremely frustrating for patients. Often, patients with chronic cough have tried numerous therapies or had several diagnostic evaluations including X-rays, lab studies, or other testing. To make things even more confusing, chronic cough can be caused by more than one condition over 90% of the time!
The most common causes of cough are allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, also known as acid reflux). Some features that can help identify the cause of the cough are: if the cough is wet or dry, the intensity of the cough, the frequency of the cough, any noticeable triggers to the cough (such as laughing, exercise, smoke, fragrance, etc), other medications you are on, other symptoms you may have (such as throat clearing, hoarseness, wheezing, trouble breathing), and your medical history.
Often the evaluation for chronic cough includes breathing tests and chest imaging. Your provider may order other tests depending on your specific symptoms, such as lab work or allergy testing. Fortunately, there are numerous medical and non-medical therapies that can be helpful for chronic cough, depending on the suspected underlying cause. An allergist can help determine the cause of chronic cough and finally help you get it under control!