What to Do with A Cough That Won’t Go Away

Bennett Richardson

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November 6, 2022
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

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In most cases, a cough that won’t go away is an annoyance, but not something to worry about.

However, when you have a cough that doesn’t go away, you may begin to worry that it’s indicative of a more serious issue. After all, coughs should resolve after a few weeks at most, right?

In this article, we’ll examine the issue of chronic coughs and provide you with some actionable steps you can take for a cough that won’t go away.

What Is a “Normal” Cough Duration?

Generally, cough symptoms will last for a few days to a few weeks. After the pathogen that has caused the cough has been neutralized, the cough will slowly dissipate. Short-term coughs are known as acute coughs1.

In some cases, cough symptoms last much longer than a few weeks. According to the Mayo Clinic, in adult coughs that hang around for longer than 8 weeks are considered chronic, while for children, coughs that last longer than 4 weeks are chronic2.

If you feel like your cough has been going on for a long time, arrange a visit to your doctor to find out what may be causing it.

Possible Causes of a Cough That Won’t Go Away

There are a number of issues that can lead to chronic coughing. Let’s examine the top 5 causes of prolonged coughing.

The Common Cold

What we consider as “the cold” is your body’s reaction to certain viral infections3. When the common cold viruses enters our systems, we often experience sneezing, sore throats, and, of course, coughing.

For most healthy people, fighting off the common cold is no problem. Our immune systems go to battle with the virus immediately and, within a few days to a few weeks, we start to feel better.

The common cold rarely leads to a cough that won’t go away4 but sometimes, viral particles can remain in our systems for a long time, causing a nagging cough for many weeks.

Chronic Bronchitis

Any time you see “-itis” at the end of a word, the condition is invariably related to inflammation/irritation of a certain body part. In this instance, bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi (a part of the respiratory system).

Bronchitis is one of the most common causes of chronic cough5. This condition irritates the respiratory system and, in response, we cough in an attempt to clear out our airways. 

Bronchitis can last for many years. Many patients with bronchitis will experience intermittent symptoms. In other words, they may go many months without an attack, and then they may experience many months of consistent coughing. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, chronic bronchitis is typically seen in those who smoke cigarettes6 but smoking is not a prerequisite for developing it.

Allergic Reactions

Another very common cause of chronic cough is allergies7. Allergies come in many different types. For example, you may suffer from seasonal allergies, such as hypersensitivity to pollen or allergies to specific substances, like nuts.

Allergic reactions can vary widely. Some people experience hives, discolored skin, constriction of the throat, or many other symptoms when they come in contact with their allergen. With long-term exposure to a specific allergen, some people may develop a chronic cough due to inflammation in the lungs as a consistent response to environmental allergens.

Asthma

Asthma is similar to bronchitis in that it results in an inflammation of the body’s airways. This condition can be caused by a specific trigger, such as exercise, which leads to severe airway restriction and potentially life-threatening consequences. 

Many people with asthma will experience both chronic and acute bouts of coughing8.

COPD

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. This condition refers to a group of related issues that block our airways. A common symptom is a long-term cough9

Often, people with COPD experience chronic coughing because their body keeps sending the signal that there is an obstruction that needs to be cleared, even if there is nothing actually there.

Visiting the Doctor for Help With a Chronic Cough

When you decide that you need to seek help from your healthcare professional in order to address your cough, this is a general procedure that your doctor will follow.

First, they will ask you questions about your symptoms. This is known as a patient interview.

From this interview, your doctor can narrow down a list of possible conditions that may be causing your cough.

Then, your doctor will perform or order some tests to further narrow down their diagnosis.

Once your test results have been analyzed, your doctor should have a pretty good idea of what is causing your cough.

Next, they will prescribe a specific treatment to help you get better. These treatments may include medicines, breathing treatments, speech therapy, or something as simple as “wait a bit longer to see if it clears up on its own”.

Having a good, collaborative relationship with your doctor will help you recover more quickly from any ailments which you may sustain throughout your life.

At Home Solutions for a Cough That Won’t Go Away

Collaborating with your doctor is never a bad idea. But there are many treatments you can perform at home to help with your chronic cough. 

For instance, you can increase your fluid intake – drinking more water and fluids in general helps to clear debris from your airways.

Additionally, you could increase your vitamin and mineral intake. Vitamin C and zinc have been touted as good options for boosting the immune system. By eating foods high in these substances (such as fruits for vitamin C and oysters for zinc), you can help your immune system fight off any and all pathogens10.

Conclusion

A cough that won’t go away is a huge annoyance. This issue can be caused by a variety of diseases and other issues. If you have a chronic cough, try out some of the at home solutions above, but don’t be afraid to visit your doctor for some extra help!

References
  1. Dicpinigaitis, P. V., Colice, G. L., Goolsby, M., Rogg, G. I., Spector, S. L., & Winther, B. (2009). Acute cough: a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. Cough, 5(1), p. 11. https://doi.org/10.1186/1745-9974-5-11[]
  2. Mayo Clinic (2019, July 09). Chronic cough. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-cough/symptoms-causes/syc-2035157[]
  3. Wein, H. (2009). Understanding a Common Cold Virus. NIH Research Matters. Retrieved October 9, 2022, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-common-cold-virus[]
  4. Boujaoude, Z. C., & Pratter, M. R. (2010). Clinical approach to acute cough. Lung, 188(1), pp. 41-46. https://doi.org/10.1007%2Fs00408-009-9170-6[]
  5. Ball, P. (1995). Epidemiology and Treatment of Chronic Bronchitis and Its Exacerbations. Chest, 108(2), pp. 43S-52S https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.108.2_supplement.43s[]
  6. John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Chronic Bronchitis. John Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved October 9, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/chronic-bronchitis[]
  7. Khoshoo, V., Edell, D., Mohnot, S., Haydel, R., Jr, Saturno, E., & Kobernick, A. (2009). Associated Factors in Children With Chronic Cough. Chest, 136(3), pp. 811–815. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.09-0649[]
  8. Chung, K. F., & Pavord, I. D. (2008). Prevalence, pathogenesis, and causes of chronic cough. The Lancet, 371(9621), 1364-1374. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60595-4[]
  9. Rennard, S., Decramer, M., Calverley, P. M. A., Pride, N. B., Soriano, J. B., Vermeire, P. A., & Vestbo, J. (2002). Impact of COPD in North America and Europe in 2000: subjects’ perspective of Confronting COPD International Survey. European Respiratory Journal, 20(4), pp. 799–805. https://doi.org/10.1183/09031936.02.03242002[]
  10. Vishwakarma, S., Panigrahi, C., Barua, S., Sahoo, M., & Mandliya, S. (2022). Food nutrients as inherent sources of immunomodulation during COVID-19 pandemic. Lebensmittel-Wissenschaft + [i.e. und] Technologie. Food science + technology. Science + technologie alimentaire, 158, 113154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2022.113154[]

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