Chronic Cough – Causes, Treatment

Chronic cough

Not only smokers have to struggle with a chronic cough and it must always be checked out by a doctor. But when does it become a chronic cough and what diseases are behind it.

What is chronic cough?

If a cough in adults lasts longer than eight weeks, medicine speaks of a chronic cough. Smokers, in particular, dismiss the morning coughing fit as a side effect of their vice and pay no further attention to it.

Coughing is a natural protective mechanism of the body, with which it wants to keep the airways clear. A doctor should always be consulted if the cough does not go away on its own or with the help of home remedies after three to four weeks. It also plays a role whether the chronic cough is accompanied by sputum and whether it is bloody. If the latter is the case, the emergency doctor is the next contact person anyway, instead of waiting for an appointment with a lung specialist ( pneumologist ).


Chronic nonproductive cough is often due to airway inflammation or foreign objects in the lungs . The body tries to clean the lungs and push the disruptive factor out of the airways with great pressure. Pneumonia is often accompanied by sore muscles because the abdominal muscles are constantly tense .

The early stage of bronchial asthma in children is often announced with a persistent dry cough , which also affects the upper respiratory tract.

If the chronic cough is accompanied by sputum, this can be the first sign of advanced stage COPD or bronchial asthma. Pneumonia is also associated with a chronic cough. Especially when the mucus in the bronchi begins to loosen and the body begins to evacuate it from the lungs.

If the sputum is bloody, this is in most cases due to severe pneumonia or lung cancer in an advanced stage.

diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

For the diagnosis of COPD, the patient must have coughed for at least three months in a row for two consecutive years and all other diseases must be ruled out.

In the so-called exclusion diagnosis, the doctor treating you often overlooks other causes such as bronchial carcinoma or tuberculosis because the symptoms overlap. If left untreated, the chronic cough quickly turns into shortness of breath, which in the advanced stage not only occurs under stress, but also in everyday situations. COPD is currently not curable and can only be slowed down. The disease is recognized very late, especially in smokers.

Chronic cough is the first sign of bronchial carcinoma and this at a relatively early stage. In contrast to bronchitis, this cough often changes to a dry, irritating cough. If it is actually a carcinoma, valuable time is wasted waiting. That is why x-rays are made right at the beginning.

A common trigger for chronic cough is also ACE inhibitors . In this case, the medication is stopped and the cough goes away on its own after two to three weeks. If the chronic cough cannot be clearly assigned, a bronchoscopy is used.

80% of bronchial asthma can be traced back to an allergy and it makes sense to start the therapy here as well, instead of just fighting the symptoms. In addition, reliever medication is needed to quickly calm an asthma attack. Another goal of therapy is to strengthen lung function and reduce excitability.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the cold season, most people have to cough more or less frequently. But any cough that lasts longer than two weeks is chronic and should be a reason for a doctor’s visit. It can be triggered by a cold, but also by bronchitis, pneumonia or a lung tumor.

While cold viruses lead to a dry cough that usually subsides after a few days, bacteria can trigger bronchitis or pneumonia. These diseases are not so easy to treat. Antibiotics are often necessary. In order to be able to make the diagnosis, the doctor has to listen to the bronchi and lungs, but in case of doubt only an X-ray examination is meaningful. The therapy depends on the cause.

Soothing cough syrups, teas and rest often help with a cold cough. Strong coughing attacks, which even result in shortness of breath, should always lead to a doctor’s visit. They can indicate whooping cough or another bacterial infection. Children with such strong coughing fits should always be treated by a doctor.

Whooping cough is an extremely contagious infectious disease and must be treated accordingly. Chronic cough with sputum can indicate a serious lung disease. Even if persistent coughing is not the result of a serious illness, it should be treated with medication because the coughing fits prevent healthy sleep and thus delay the healing process.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of COPD essentially depends on the severity. In the initial stage, drug therapy is only intended in an emergency and is limited to drugs that widen the airways in the event of acute shortness of breath.

Moderate COPD is already being treated with longer-acting drugs that open the airways. In addition, the success of the treatment is very dependent on the patient’s own initiative. In addition to avoiding harmful substances (cigarettes, dust), respiratory physiotherapy and physical training are an essential part of the therapy.

The severe form of COPD usually requires long-term oxygen therapy and the inhalation of corticosteroids, which, however, are associated with significant side effects, especially with long-term use. In rare cases, emphysema surgery is also used, in which the overinflated parts are removed from the lungs.

If a lung carcinoma is the trigger for a chronic cough, the therapy not only depends on the age of the patient and his general state of health, but also on the tissue type of the tumour. The non-small cell tumor is always operated on, while the small cell tumor is first treated with radiation and chemotherapy .

Outlook & Forecast

If a chronic cough remains untreated and without any medical care, this clinical picture can significantly worsen within a very short time. Without appropriate medication, a chronic cough can very quickly develop into pneumonia or pleurisy . Constant coughing can lead to a very uncomfortable feeling of pressure in the head area, which in turn can lead to headaches .

A chronic cough can sometimes become a lengthy affair, since the healing process in such a case is very slow. With appropriate medication or medical treatment, the prognosis for a chronic cough looks much better.

A chronic cough, for example, can be effectively and effectively combated with codeine drops. This makes it much easier for those affected to cough up and the healing process is accelerated many times over. Various complications are also avoided at an early stage, so that the chronic cough should subside significantly within 2 weeks.

However, a chronic cough often has various side effects. These include severe headaches, fever , chills and sore throat . In addition, in many cases , swallowing difficulties occur, which significantly restricts food intake.

One thing is certain: Without medical treatment, a chronic cough can develop into a serious illness. Therefore, early treatment is extremely important.


Smoking sticks the cilia in the lungs together and is the ultimate risk factor for chronic cough, COPD and lung cancer. Quitting smoking thus significantly reduces the risk of serious lung diseases.

Endurance sport is also a good measure, as it increases the volume of the lungs and strengthens the airways. After a jog, however, it is better to avoid exposure to large amounts of fine dust because the lungs are more receptive.

Stays in places with a so-called stimulating climate are also favorable. A holiday by the sea not only alleviates existing respiratory diseases, but also has a preventive cleaning effect.

You can do that yourself

There are numerous home remedies that relieve chronic cough and support healing. It is recommended to drink a lot . Warm drinks and at least two liters a day are sensible. The more liquid the mucus is, the easier it is to cough it up. You can also help coughing up the mucus by patting your chest and back. Massages with essential oils such as peppermint oil , thyme oil , eucalyptus oil , anise oil or fennel oil are also useful .

Inhalations and steam baths moisten the respiratory tract and thus facilitate the evacuation of mucus. Humidifying the air in the room can also provide relief. For example, a drying rack with damp towels can be set up in the room or a damp cloth can be placed over the radiator.

Medicinal herbs in the form of cough syrup, cough drops, cough drops, cough pastilles or cough tea are also helpful . Sage , ivy leaves , buckhorn , cowslip blossoms , black radish or thyme support the relief of chronic coughs. Fennel honey is suitable for children. If the chronic cough is particularly tough, an onion pad on the chest or back can help to loosen the mucus.

If the chronic cough is a dry, dry cough, coltsfoot marshmallow , Iceland moss or mallow in the form of juice, syrup, tea or extract can help. Suitable homeopathic remedies are Drosera and Byronia. Smoking should definitely be avoided if you have a chronic cough.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.