Coughing has a purpose and it’s always important to keep your throat and airway clear of material that should never be there. Your vocal cords come together with force when you cough to release foreign irritants or bodies away from the lungs. A cough can sometimes become a chronic condition – constant trauma and irritation to your voice box may cause a pattern of overreaction of the vocal folds with more easily triggered cough responses and the urge of needing to cough where there isn’t actually anything to cough out.
Chronic cough is normally defined as a cough that lasts beyond eight weeks and doesn’t go away, and when this occurs it is very important to have it evaluated and then manage all possible causes with a healthcare provider. Side effects of medication, lung issues, such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), environmental allergies, swallowing problems, smoking, and gastroesophageal/laryngopharyngeal reflux are examples of what causes a chronic cough.
Have you had a cough that’s bothersome, and has lasted quite a while? If so, then you should visit a healthcare provider to have it checked out.
What kind of doctor should I see for chronic cough?
A primary care provider (PCP), like a family practitioner, may first diagnose and treat a persistent cough, however, if the cough is severe, a person may be seen by emergency medical specialist in a hospital’s emergency department. People who suffer from a constant cough may be referred to a few different specialists to determine the underlying cause. There are pulmonologists – lung specialists who specialize in treating diseases of the airways; allergists – specialists who help treat chronic cough for allergies; and gastroenterologists – specialists in diseases of the digestive tract. Then there are cardiologists who specialize in the disease of the circulatory system and heart and may treat a chronic cough that can be a symptom of heart disease.
Can a chronic cough be serious?
When your throat tickles or a piece of food goes down the wrong pipe, it is normal to cough as this is your body’s way of clearing out your throat and airways of fluids, irritants, mucus, or microbes. Then there are two types of cough: a productive cough, which is a chesty cough that produces mucus; and a dry cough, a tickly cough in the back of the throat that doesn’t produce mucus. A cough may be a sign that there are a number of things happening in your body, especially if the cough doesn’t go away. A chronic cough that lasts more than eight weeks could be a sign of allergies, asthma, acid reflux, postnasal drop, bronchitis, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Less common causes of a chronic cough could stem directly from serious health problems, like lung cancer, foreign bodies, cystic fibrosis, or pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in your lungs. A dry cough may last around two to three weeks and is most likely caused by an upper respiratory tract infection. A chronic cough however might suggest a more serious, underlying lung condition and you will need to see a doctor if it persists for more than a few weeks.
Why is my dry cough not going away?
Before we delve into why a dry cough might not go away, let’s first go over the common causes of a dry cough: viruses, like COVID-19, allergies, asthma, bronchitis, climate, laryngitis, and smoking, to name a handful of examples. The reason why your cough is not going away is that the cough itself is a protective reflex that is responding to irritants or inflammation and should not be ignored. Simply put, a cough might not go away simply because you have developed a serious condition that requires medical attention.
When should I worry about a cough?
Coughing here and there is normal, but once a cough doesn’t go away after two to three weeks, then it is a flag that something more serious might be going on with your health. If you have a cough that persists and may get worse, then contact your doctor to have it examined and looked after.
If you have a persistent cough, we welcome you to contact us and book an appointment through our website. Our team at Allergy and Asthma Clinic of Maryland are here to help you breathe better and live better.