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Answers to All Your Chronic Cough Questions

Apr 14 2022

Are you worried your cough is more serious than the common cold? Have your cold symptoms waned but your cough has persisted? Are you wondering when is the time to talk to your health care provider?

Meredith Bergey Vejnar, MD, is family medicine physician at Bon Secours Premier Family Medicine who has answers those questions and more. See below!

At what point should you start to worry about having a cough?

“It may be different for everyone. However, with no underlying conditions, a person may consider going to a doctor if the cough has lasted for more than two weeks after a cold to understand what could be causing it. If a cough lasts longer than eight weeks, a person should get a thorough evaluation by a primary care provider. This is especially true if the cough is affecting a patient’s quality of life.”

What does a chronic or prolonged cough look like?

“An acute cough lasts for less than three weeks – we normally see this in the form of a cold. Between three and eight weeks, the cough would be considered a sub-acute cough, which could be caused by different viruses, bronchitis, gastrointestinal issues or even allergies. A chronic cough lasts longer than eight weeks, which normally means a visit to your health care provider is needed.”

What is typically the cause of a chronic cough?

“The most common causes are post-nasal drip, asthma, gastric reflux and sometimes medications. Environmental issues such as pollen during allergy season and work environments that have fumes or dust can also cause chronic cough.”

What does diagnosing a chronic cough look like?

“The first step in evaluating a chronic cough is a looking at a patient’s medical history to ensure nothing is overlooked. Most of the treatment in the beginning is focused on a patient’s history like whether a patient has a history of gastrointestinal issues or a medication that may cause coughing. If a medication is causing chronic cough, a physician would look at changing the medication if possible. If allergies are the issue, a physician would focus on curing the allergies. If the cough contains blood, physicians look to chest X-rays to ensure everything is OK.”

What does treating a chronic cough look like?

“Treating the cause of the cough is the easiest way to cure the cough. If the cough persists, different over-the-counters and medications can help. Coughs can often be cured easily and are not a sign of a more serious issue. Less than 2 percent of all coughs equate to lung cancer or something serious. However, a sudden increase in coughing frequency or blood in cough is more cause for concern.”

Are you concerned about your coughing? Contact your primary care provider to set up an appointment today. And if you are looking for one, visit our website to find a Bon Secours provider near you.

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