- Acute cough—lasts for less than 3 weeks
- Subacute cough—lasts 3-8 weeks
- Chronic cough—lasts longer than 8 weeks
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis or emphysema
- Acid reflux from the stomach into the esophagus—gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Postnasal drip, which may be due to:
- Repeated inhalation of environmental irritants
- Sinus inflammation
- Certain medications, such as ACE inhibitors
|Alveoli (Air Sacs) of Lung|
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- Tobacco smoke
- Harmful 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
- Cough lasting more than 8 weeks
- Signs of an infection, including fever and 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
- Blood tests
- Skin tests
- Analysis of a sputum sample
- If you smoke, talk to your doctor about strategies to quit. Smoking affects your lung function and increases your risk of many diseases.
- Get proper treatment for the underlying condition.
When working in areas where harmful fumes or airborne substances are present:
- Be sure the area is properly ventilated.
- Wear a protective mask or respirator.
American Lung Association http://www.lung.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
The Lung Association http://www.lung.ca
Chronic cough in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 18, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2014.
Cough. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/cough.html. Accessed September 17, 2014.
Coughlin L. Cough: Diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(4):567-575.
1/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm051137.htm. Updated August 20, 2013. Accessed September 17, 2014.
1/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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(6):1149-1153.
11/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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: David Horn, MD
- Review Date: 08/2015 -
- Update Date: 09/17/2014 -