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Chronic Cough


What is a chronic cough?

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

What causes a chronic cough?

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Postnasal drip
  • Allergies
  • Acid reflux
  • Lung conditions, such as asthma, COPD, or pneumonia
  • Medicines, such as blood pressure or heart medicines

What signs and symptoms might I also have?

  • Wheezing
  • Pain or itching in your throat
  • Mucus buildup in your throat
  • Red, swollen, watery eyes
  • A rash that may come and go
  • Clubbed fingertips

What should I tell my caregiver about my cough?

Tell your caregiver when your cough started and any other signs or symptoms you have. If your cough comes and goes, tell him how much time passes between coughing fits. He may ask if you had a respiratory infection, or if you smoke. Tell your caregiver about your medical conditions and medicines. You may need a chest x-ray so your caregiver can examine your airways.

How is chronic cough treated?

The cough may go away on its own. You may need medicine to decrease your cough and soothe your throat. You may also need medicines to treat allergies or decrease swelling in your airways. If you have a respiratory infection, you may need antibiotics or other medicine to treat it.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Raise your head and upper back when you sleep. Use extra pillows or sleep in a recliner. This will help decrease your cough.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking can make your cough worse. Ask your caregiver for information if you need help quitting.
  • Avoid chemicals or irritants that trigger your allergies. Wear a mask if you work around pollutants or chemicals.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Do not eat for 4 hours before you go to sleep.

When should I contact my caregiver?

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

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You cough up blood, or find blood in your mucus.
  • You faint when you cough.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2015 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.