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Chronic Cough


A chronic cough

is a cough that lasts more than 4 weeks in children or 8 weeks in adults.

Signs and symptoms you may also have:

  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Pain or itching in your throat
  • Red, swollen, watery eyes
  • A raspy or hoarse voice
  • Heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You cough up blood.
  • You faint when you cough.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have severe pain when you take a deep breath.
  • You become very tired after a coughing fit.
  • You have trouble sleeping because of the coughing.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a chronic cough

may depend on the cause. You may need medicine to stop your cough, treat allergies or acid reflux, or decrease swelling in your airways. You will need antibiotics if your cough is caused by a respiratory infection. If you take medicine that causes a chronic cough, it may be stopped or changed. You may need speech therapy. A speech therapist can teach you ways to control your cough.


  • Prevent acid reflex. Acid reflux can make your chronic cough worse. Raise your head and upper back when you sleep. Place 2 or more pillows behind your head or sleep in a recliner. Do not lie down for at least 1 hour after you eat. Do not have foods or drinks that increase heartburn. Ask your healthcare provider for other ways to prevent acid reflux.
  • Do not smoke. Encourage your adolescent child not to smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. They can also make your cough worse. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Stay away from secondhand smoke. Do not let people smoke in your car, home, or near your child. Do not stand near someone that is smoking. This includes anyone that is smoking an E-cigarrete.
  • Avoid anything that triggers your allergies or irritates your throat. Allergens and irritants can make your chronic cough worse. Allergens may include dust mites, pollen, pet dander, or mold. Wear a mask if you work around pollutants or irritants. Ask your healthcare provider for more ways to decrease your exposure to allergens or irritants.
  • Drink plenty of liquids as directed. Liquids may help relieve throat discomfort that causes you to cough. Add honey to tea or hot water to help ease your throat pain. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for more tests. Your healthcare provider may refer to you other specialists. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.