Surprising Facts About a Lingering Cough: But You Have No Cold

By Amanda Lawrence |
|5 min read

Coughing is our body's mechanism to throw out the irritants in lungs and windpipe. It's usually not a big issue; we do it every day. But when you cough for 3-4 days before it starts improving, it's a symptom of cold or flu. After a week passes, the cough could indicate bronchitis or allergy and it's time to see a doctor. And if a cough keeps troubling you even after that, it could be something serious. A chronic cough is a sign that you are sick and need medical attention. It could be anything from asthma to cancer. Only a doctor could tell.

What Causes a Prolonged Cough

There are many possibilities for a lingering cough. Check out the major reasons for a stubborn cough here:

1. Post-nasal Drip

Our nose does more than just smell the air. It filters, moisturizes, and warms the air passing through the delicate lungs. It does all this with the help of normal moist and sticky mucus. But when the nose itself goes through some problems like allergens, viruses, dust particles, and chemicals, it produces more mucus than normal. This mucus is thin and watery. When it comes out of the nose it becomes a nuisance, but when it slides down the throat, it tickles the nerves which cause a cough. You must have noticed that in such cases you will cough more at night. It doesn't linger too much. As soon as your nose starts working again the cough goes away.

2. Asthma

It seems rare, but asthma is actually quite common. One-quarter of all chronic coughs are caused by asthma. The normal signs of an asthmatic cough are wheezing sounds, breathlessness, and sometimes just coughing. Excessive mucus production is also a classic symptom. Dust, cold air, allergens – anything could cause asthma.

3. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

It's difficult to imagine GERD without heartburn but it's possible. When the contents of the stomach travel upstream to the esophagus, instead of down to the intestines, it's called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD. The acid causes heartburn, bad breath, belching, and sour taste in the mouth. This acid also irritates the nerves, causing possible cough reflex. In fact, sometimes, the patients complain of a recurring cough, laryngitis, and sore throats instead of heartburn.

4. Bronchitis

Bronchitis is caused by inflammation of bronchial tubes. Chronic bronchitis is caused by persistent inflammation. Various reasons include tobacco abuse and exposure to industrial air pollutants. The problem has decreased considerably since the advent of antibiotics but it still exists. Chronic bronchitis can cause a chronic cough.

5. ACE Inhibitors Therapy

Sometimes your chronic cough can be caused by the outcomes of your doctor's medical decisions. Many blood pressure medications contain Enalapril and Lisinopril which might cause throat tickling and dry cough.

These are some major causes. But quite often we get this feeling of "I am having coughs that seems not improving though I am not being sick". This feeling could be caused due to many reasons like allergies, pollution, smoking, pneumonia, and whooping cough. Sometimes it can be even more serious and dangerous like cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, heart failure, and sarcoidosis.

How To Treat This Persistent Cough

Treating the lingering cough doesn't always require medical attention. The common causes could be treated at home. It all depends on your condition and the persistence of your cough.

Check out the possible treatments here:

1. Home Remedies

These remedies are backed by extensive research but they are no replacement of medicines. Consult a doctor before trying them.

  • Peppermint Tea and Honey

It has been known that combining peppermint tea with honey relaxes the respiratory system and eases out a cough. Honey is anti-bacterial and has anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Ivy Leaf and Thyme

A herbal mixture of thyme and ivy leaf treats a cough. Even inhaling the essential oils help.

  • Bromelain

Bromelain is found in pineapple stems and it helps in getting rid of allergens. If you are coughing because of allergic reactions, bromelain may help.

2. Medical Treatments

When the symptoms are serious and home remedies don't work, it's time for allopathy to show its magic. Depending on your cough, your doctor will recommend the following treatments.

  • Post-nasal Drip: The best treatment for post-nasal drip is a decongestant or antihistamine tablets. Many people feel sleepy after taking decongestant while some experience racing heart and souped-up feelings.

  • Asthma and Chronic Bronchitis: Treatment of both is long-term and requires inhaling steroids and bronchodilators. These need to be taken every day.

  • Infections: When a persistent cough is due to bacterial infections or pneumonia, antibiotics can help you out.

What to Do In Case of a Prolonged Cough in Children

A cough is more common in children than in adults. It could be caused due to any of the reasons given above. But when your kid starts coughing, you need to listen to the sound very carefully. Any wheezing, whistling, or barking means you need to go the pediatrician.

A whooping cough or pertussis is very common in children and can be fatal for children under 2 years. Sometimes a mild infection in the respiratory tract can have cold-like symptoms but can turn serious quickly if untreated. One more reason is croup which manifests in a child making a barking sound while coughing. They might even make this sound while breathing in.

When your children have a lingering cough, they need immediate attention from a doctor.

Take Home Message

A cough that persists for a long time could be irritating while causing lack of sleep and discomfort. But it's usually treatable at home. If it stays for more than 8 weeks, then it's time for a doctor to intervene. But nothing is untreatable, though it may take some time. Watch what Jeffrey E. Weiland of The Ohio State University says about the possible causes and treatment of chronic coughing on this video:



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