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Chronic Cough

A chronic cough is a cough that lasts eight weeks or longer.

A chronic cough is more than just an annoyance. A chronic cough can interrupt restorative sleep and lead to exhaustion. Severe cases of chronic cough can cause vomiting, lightheadedness and even rib fractures.

While it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the problem that’s triggering a chronic cough, the most common causes are tobacco use, postnasal drip, asthma and acid reflux.

The following causes, alone or in combination, are responsible for the majority of cases of chronic cough:

  • Postnasal drip
  • Asthma
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Infections
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Blood pressure drugs

Less commonly, chronic cough may be caused by:

  • Aspiration
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux
  • Lung cancer
  • Nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Signs & Symptoms

A chronic cough can occur with other signs and symptoms, which may include:

  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • A feeling of liquid running down the back of your throat (postnasal drip)
  • Frequent throat clearing and sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth
  • In rare cases, coughing up blood


A Deborah Heart and Lung Center physician will take a complete medical history and perform a physical exam. A thorough medical history and physical exam can provide important clues about a chronic cough. The doctor may also order tests to look for the cause of the chronic cough.

  • Imaging tests
  • X-rays
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans
  • Lung function tests
  • Lab tests for infection
  • Scope tests
  • Bronchoscopy