For most people, a periodic cough is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. In some cases, however, a cough doesn’t go away and could be a sign of an underlying medical problem—everything from the common cold and asthma to cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Coughs that take longer than a day or two to clear can also come with other symptoms, such as irritation in the throat or trouble breathing. When a cough doesn’t go away, it can be hard to pinpoint why.
The Temple Lung Center’s Chronic Cough Program specializes in finding the cause of a cough that lasts more than 8 weeks or causes other medical problems like vomiting or trouble breathing. Once the cause is discovered, the program’s medical team can offer treatments to lessen the cough or address the underlying medical condition.
What Is a Cough?
A cough is the body’s reaction to irritation in the airways. When mucus or a foreign object needs to be removed, special receptors in the airways alert the cough center in the brain, which sends a signal to the diaphragm, abdominal muscles and rib muscles to trigger a cough.
A cough can serve various functions, including clearing mucus from the lungs and airways; restoring a normal heartbeat; or signaling a serious underlying condition. In some cases, coughing can be caused by certain medications or other common non-respiratory conditions such as allergic rhinitis (allergies) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux).
Learn More About Chronic Cough
Sean Duffy, MD, a pulmonologist at the Temple Lung Center explains the causes of a chronic cough and when to seek specialized care.