Coughing is a routine bodily function, but when it lasts for an extended time, it can get in the way of everyday life and be worrying. A chronic cough can be wet and produce phlegm or dry and tickle the throat.
A chronic cough is when a cough lasts longer than 8 weeks in adults or 4 weeks in children. Common causes include asthma, allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or bronchitis. Less commonly, it can be a sign of a more severe condition, such as a heart cough or lung disease.
Treatments for a chronic cough depend upon the underlying cause. If a doctor cannot determine the exact cause straight away, they might decide to treat the most common contributing factors for a chronic cough.
Postnasal drip is a common cause, so a doctor may recommend the person takes decongestants or antihistamines. These medications can help to dry up secretions and reduce inflammation that can lead to postnasal drip. Decongestant or nasal steroid sprays may also help.
Other treatments may be more specific to a particular underlying medical condition. For example, a person may be able to control their GERD through making lifestyle changes and taking medications that reduce the effects of acid on the stomach. Examples of these changes can include:
- eating several small meals a day
- avoiding foods known to cause GERD, such as caffeine, citrus fruits, tomato-based foods, high-fat foods, chocolate, or peppermint
- refraining from lying down until two hours after eating
- sleeping with the head of the bed raised or using extra pillows to elevate the head
- taking medications, such as cimetidine (Tagamet) or famotidine (Pepcid)