Cough lasting 8 weeks or more
A cough that lasts 8 weeks or longer is known as a chronic cough. A chronic cough is not a disease in itself. It is a sign of something wrong. That's why it's important to see your doctor and find out the cause.
Some of the most common causes of chronic cough include:
- Post-nasal drip syndrome, when mucus drips down your throat from the back of your nose
- Something at home or work that is irritating your nose or airway
- COPD (new name for emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
- Acid reflux (sometimes called gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD)
- Some high blood pressure medications
- Or a combination of these causes
In rare cases, chronic cough can be caused by serious diseases like tuberculosis (TB), lung cancer. Your doctor may want to order a chest x-ray to determine whether you have a serious condition.
Diagnosing a chronic cough
The first step in treating a chronic cough is to find out what's causing it. Your doctor may do several tests to diagnose the cause.
First your doctor will ask about your medical history. He or she might ask you questions such as whether you have allergies, what medications you are currently taking, whether you smoke or smoked in the past, if you use chemicals at home or work, and if you have been sick lately. Before you go to your doctor, write down everything you want to tell him or her. Your doctor should do a physical exam and may also order a chest X-ray.
Your doctor may also order lung function tests (spirometry).
Your doctor may refer you to a breathing specialist (a respirologist).
Once the doctor knows the cause of your cough, he or she will recommend a treatment.
Most of the time, you can get effective treatment for your cough. If you see your doctor and get help early on, it will be easier to treat your cough.