- Acute cough—lasts for less than three weeks
- Subacute cough—lasts 3-8 weeks
- Chronic cough—lasts longer than eight weeks
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (eg, chronic bronchitis , emphysema )
- Reflux of acid from the stomach into the throat (gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD])
Postnasal drip, which may be due to:
- Repeated inhalation of environmental irritants
- Sinus inflammation
- Bronchiectasis (a less common cause)
- Certain medicines (eg, ACE inhibitors)
|Alveoli (Air Sacs) of Lung|
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- Tobacco smoke
- Noxious fumes
- Allergens, such as pollen and dust
- Smog and other environmental pollutants
When Should I Call My Doctor?
- Acute cough that worsens or does not go away on its own
- Chronic cough
- Signs of an infection (eg, fever, chills)
- Cough with wheezing
- Blood in the sputum
When Should I Call for Medical Help Immediately?
- Pink or frothy sputum
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Swelling in the legs
- Chest x-rays —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside of the chest
- Computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to create images of structures inside of the chest
- Analysis of a sputum sample
- Blood test to check for infection
- Skin tests if allergies are suspected
- Skin test for tuberculosis
- Pulmonary function tests —to measure lung volumes and air flow rates
- Bronchoscopy —insertion of a long, thin instrument to view the interior of the airways and collect samples
- Be a nonsmoker.
- Get proper treatment for the underlying condition.
When working in areas where noxious fumes or airborne substances are present:
- Be sure the area is properly ventilated.
- Wear a protective mask or respirator.
American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org/
American Lung Association http://www.lung.org/
The Canadian Lung Association http://www.lung.ca/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org .
American College of Chest Physicians website. Available at: http://www.chestnet.org .
Chronic cough: lifestyle and home remedies. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-cough/DS00957/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies . Updated May 14, 2011. Accessed January 11, 2012.
Cough. Family Doctor.org. website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/cough.html . Accessed January 11, 2012.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information (online version). 2nd ed. 2005.
Practice guideline—cough: diagnosis and management. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0215/p567.html . Published February 15, 2007. Accessed January 12, 2012.
1/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Public health advisory: Nonprescription cough and cold medicine use in children—FDA recommends that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products not be used for infants and children under 2 years of age. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/advisory/cough%5Fcold%5F2008.htm . Accessed January 30, 3008.
1/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Paul IM, Beiler J, McMonagle A, Shaffer ML, Duda L, Berlin CM Jr. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161:1149-1153.
11/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Smith S, Schroeder K, Fahey T. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for acute cough in children and adults in ambulatory settings. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(9):CD001831.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 09/2012 -
- Update Date: 09/30/2012 -