That annoying cough. It takes hold when you catch a nasty cold, the flu or an upper respiratory infection. For some, it strikes during allergy season. It can happen if you swallow food “down the wrong pipe,” encounter strong fumes, a lot of dust, or smell smoke. During these times, coughing is your body’s automatic response to clear away mucus and other irritants out of the throat and lungs.
But what does it mean when you have a lingering cough that worsens or just won’t go away?
A persistent cough is the most common presenting symptom I see patients for at the Chronic Cough Program at the Temple Lung Center. It's also one of the most common presenting symptoms seen by pulmonologists nationwide.
When Does a Cough Become Chronic?
A cough is considered chronic if it lasts longer than 8 weeks.
A short-term, or acute cough, lasts less than 3 weeks. It's most commonly caused by viral respiratory infections, asthma and seasonal allergies, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis flare-ups.
A subacute, or medium length cough, typically lasts 3 to 8 weeks. It most commonly presents as a cough that lingers long after other symptoms from a cold, the flu or other respiratory infection have passed. Pertussis (Whooping cough) also causes subacute cough.