Troubled by Chronic Cough: Persistence Pays Off

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Chronic Cough

When you can't shake a cough, it may be the sign of an underlying problem. But pinpointing the problem can be frustrating.

Determining the culprit behind chronic cough involves systematically eliminating probable causes through examination, testing and trying different treatments. You can expect repeated doctor visits.

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Most of the time, chronic cough isn't due to a serious illness. The March issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers the most common causes of chronic cough:

  • Postnasal drip: This condition is caused by overproduction of mucus that slowly trickles from the back of your nose down into your throat. Although it may not even be noticeable in some cases, it can be associated with inflammation in your throat and cause coughing. Postnasal drip also may be due to allergies, a cold, the flu or inflammation of the sinuses.

  • Asthma: Asthma inflames and constricts air passages and tends to trigger a cough, especially during the night, after exercise or when you're exposed to chemicals or other irritants. A cough can be the sole sign of asthma.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Heartburn and sour belch are common symptoms of this disease, but some people with a particular form of GERD develop a cough instead.

Chronic cough isn't just something you have to live with. Find a doctor you trust, because feedback and communication are essential. Although finding the cause takes time and effort, in most cases it results in a specific diagnosis and treatment plan.

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