What Causes Continuous Coughing?

Continuous or chronic coughing, which lasts for eight weeks or longer, can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions. Identifying the specific cause of a chronic cough may require a thorough evaluation by a healthcare provider. Some common causes of continuous coughing include:

  • Respiratory Infections: Chronic cough can result from infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. These conditions can lead to persistent inflammation and irritation of the airways.
  • Postnasal Drip: Excess mucus from the nose and sinuses dripping down the back of the throat can trigger a cough. It is often associated with conditions like allergic rhinitis or sinusitis.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus (acid reflux) can irritate the throat and cause chronic cough. This is sometimes referred to as “silent reflux.”
  • Asthma: Asthma can cause chronic cough as one of its symptoms. Cough-variant asthma primarily presents as a persistent cough without the typical wheezing or shortness of breath.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Conditions like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which are included under COPD, can lead to persistent coughing.
  • Environmental Irritants: Exposure to irritants in the environment, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, or occupational dust or chemicals, can lead to chronic cough.
  • Medications: Some medications, particularly angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure, can cause a persistent cough as a side effect.
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or other allergens can lead to chronic cough.
  • Interstitial Lung Diseases: Conditions like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) or sarcoidosis can cause lung scarring and chronic cough.
  • Bronchiectasis: This condition is characterized by the widening and thickening of the airway walls, leading to mucus buildup and chronic cough.
  • Chronic Sinusitis: Prolonged inflammation of the sinuses can cause a postnasal drip and chronic cough.
  • Whooping Cough (Pertussis): This highly contagious bacterial infection can lead to severe bouts of coughing, often with a characteristic “whoop” sound.
  • Heart Failure: Fluid buildup in the lungs, a symptom of heart failure, can cause a chronic cough.
  • Lung Cancer: A persistent cough can be an early sign of lung cancer.
  • Psychogenic Cough: In some cases, chronic cough may have a psychological or habit-based component, and it is often referred to as psychogenic cough or habit cough.

To determine the cause of a chronic cough and receive appropriate treatment, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider. They may perform various diagnostic tests, such as chest X-rays, lung function tests, or allergy tests, to identify the underlying condition. The treatment of a chronic cough depends on its cause and may involve medications, lifestyle changes, or management of the underlying condition.