Common Causes of Chronic Coughing

A chronic cough is way more than just an annoyance. A chronic cough can interrupt your sleep and leave you feeling exhausted for days. Severe cases of chronic cough can cause vomiting, lightheadedness and even rib fractures. Causes of chronic coughs can create symptoms that lasts eight weeks or longer in adults, or four weeks in children. An occasional cough is normal and it helps to clear irritants from your lungs and prevents infection. However, a cough that persists for weeks is usually the result of a medical problem. In many cases, more than one cause is involved.

While it can occasionally be difficult to pinpoint the problem that’s causing a chronic cough, the most common sources are tobacco use, postnasal drip, asthma and acid reflux. Fortunately, chronic cough usually goes away once the underlying problem is treated.

The following, alone or in combination, are the most common causes of a chronic cough:

Postnasal Drip

When your nose or sinuses produce extra mucus, it can drip down the back of your throat and activate your cough reflex. This condition is also called upper airway cough syndrome.


An asthma-related cough may come and go with the seasons. It can appear after an upper respiratory tract infection or become even worse when you’re exposed to cold air or even certain chemicals or fragrances. In one type of asthma, which is the cough-variant asthma, a cough is the main symptom.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a common condition where stomach acid flows back into the tube that connects your stomach and throat (esophagus). This constant irritation can lead to chronic coughing. The coughing, in turn, becomes worse and continues a vicious cycle.


A cough can linger long after other symptoms of pneumonia, flu, a cold or other infections of the upper respiratory tract have gone away. A common cause of a chronic cough in adults is pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough.

Blood Pressure Drugs

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, which are usually prescribed for high blood pressure and heart failure, are also known to cause chronic cough in some people.

Chronic Bronchitis

This is a long lasting inflammation of the major airways, also known as bronchial tubes. Chronic bronchitis can cause a cough that will bring up colored mucus. Most people who have chronic bronchitis are current or former smokers. Chronic bronchitis is usually part of the spectrum of smoking-related lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Less commonly, chronic cough may also be caused by the following:

  • Aspiration (food in adults; foreign bodies in children)
  • Bronchiectasis (damaged airways)
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux (stomach acid runs up into the throat)
  • Lung cancer
  • Nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis (airway inflammation not caused by asthma)
  • Sarcoidosis (collections of inflammatory cells in different parts of your body, mostly in the lungs)

Risk Factors

The leading risk factor for chronic cough is being a current or former smoker. Recurrent exposure to secondhand smoke can also lead to coughing as well as lung damage.

Women tend to have more sensitive cough reflexes. Because of this, they are more likely to develop a chronic cough than men.


Having a persistent cough is not only exhausting but threatening to your health as well. Coughing can disrupt your sleep and cause a variety of other problems that include the following:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Fractured ribs

Treatment with Dr. Shukla

Dr. Shukla of Brooklyn New York has been in practice for more than 15 years. He has provided the answers and treatments to many children suffering from asthma, allergies, sleep apnea. Here at the Asthma, Allergy and Sleep Center of New York, we provide you with a personalized, boutique approach to health care and pediatric pulmonology all under one roof. We emphasize prevention and use our advanced diagnostic technologies to give you and your child the best possible care. Whether you need to see a sleep doctor, need allergy treatment or have questions about common causes for chronic coughs, contact Dr. Shukla’s New York offices today for an appointment.

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