Persistent Cough: Causes and Treatment

Persistent cough or chronic cough is cough that continues and does not resolve. It has to be noted that it is not an ailment in itself but in fact a symptom of a disease or health disorder. Across the globe, a chronic cough is one of the most common reasons to prompt a doctor’s visit. If a chronic cough persists the patient should seek a medical consult. A chest x-ray is generally taken in such cases.


The most identified cause for a cough is a cold or flu many conditions can lead to chronic cough. Viral infections are the most widespread reason of acute cough, particularly in children. A persistent cough can also be traced back to:

  • Respiratory infections (whopping cough)
  • Asthma
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Sinus infections
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Post nasal drip
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Pneumonia
  • Certain medications used in treating high blood pressure
  • Lung diseases and tumours (uncommon)
  • Inhalation of foreign objects into lungs (especially in children)
  • Tuberculosis


Like many other ailments, the treatment of a persistent cough is determined by its cause. In case of acute cough due to asthma, inhaled steroids and bronchodilators are found to provide relief as they bring the inflammation of airways under control. When GERD is the cause, patient should avoid foods that increase the reflux, refrain from eating before lying down, and taking medicines to reduce the elevated stomach acidity. When chronic cough is rooted in sinus infections and post nasal drip, decongestants like nasal inhalers and sometimes even antibiotics are advised to relieve symptoms of post nasal drip. In case of allergic rhinitis, inhaled steroids are known to do the trick. For pneumonia and bronchitis related cough, antibiotics and analgesics are generally prescribed. Most cases bronchitis found in adults results from a viral infection; hence the line of treatment followed is similar to that of common cold which primarily includes taking rest, fluids, analgesics, humidification, and taking lozenges.

When the cause of persistent cough is not outlined, patients may benefit from over-the-counter cough medicines. Cough suppressants can help treat dry coughs as they decrease the urge to cough, on the other hand, expectorants can take care of coughs that cause mucus and blockage of the respiratory tract. Drinking fluids, especially water may provide a soothing effect. Tea is another drink which is considered very beneficial to keep the throat moist.

Coming from cigarette smoking being its common cause, one of the most widely recommended treatments for chronic cough is restricting or stopping smoking of cigarettes altogether. Since bronchitis and pneumonia are also viral infections, to prevent acute cough, one must maintain a distance from patients suffering from these ailments. Another very universal cure for acute cough is taking vitamin C which is known to help reduce inflammation. To prevent the onset of chronic cough, many professionals are known to also recommend eating a diet rich in fruit.

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