Cannot Stop Coughing? 8 Causes of Chronic Cough


5. Air pollution
Various pollutants and irritants in the air can cause a persistent cough. Even short-term exposure to fumes (such as diesel exhaust) can result in cough, phlegm, and lung irritation, for instance. Fumes can also exacerbate the symptoms of allergies or asthma.

Similarly, mold spores found in and around homes can cause wheezing and coughing when inhaled. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans reported a sudden spike in persistent cough complaints among returning residents. This so-called Katrina cough was believed to stem from the mold caused by the flooding, as well as by dry weather and the construction dust that was then ubiquitous in the city.

6. Acute bronchitis
If youre on the verge of recovering from a cold and suddenly develop a hacking, mucus-y cough, you probably have acute bronchitis, a condition in which the passageways in your lungs become infected and inflamed.

In addition to coughing and chest congestion, bronchitis can produce fever, chills, aches, sore throat, and other flu-like symptoms. These symptoms usually disappear within a few days, but the cough can persist for weeks.

If your cough doesnt go away, or if you develop acute bronchitis frequently, it may be a sign of a more serious condition. Acute bronchitis—acute means short-term—is different from chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a condition in which the lungs produce excess mucus due to ongoing irritation, and is considered a form of COPD.

7. ACE inhibitors
ACE inhibitors are a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. About 42 million prescriptions for ACE inhibitors are written each year, and about 1 in 5 people who take the drugs develop a dry cough. In some people, the cough can persist for weeks after they stop taking the medication; women, African Americans, and Asians may be at greater risk of developing an ACE inhibitor cough than other people.

You should never stop taking a prescribed medication without consulting with your doctor, and ACE inhibitors are important medications for lowering blood pressure (a more serious condition than a cough.) Consult your doctor if you think your cough is related to a medication.

8. Pertussis
Also known as whooping cough, pertussis is a bacterial disease with symptoms that include a slight fever, a runny nose, and, most notably, a violent cough that can make breathing difficult. Attempting to inhale air into the lungs between coughs can produce a distinctive, high-pitched whooping sound. After the initial stage, many people do not have a fever, but the chronic cough that accompanies pertussis can last for many weeks.

Most infants receive a pertussis vaccine, but its effectiveness subsides after about 10 years. Inadequate vaccination for pertussis (which is the ā€œPā€ in the DTaP shot) is one reason why the bacteria are making a comeback. Once a very rare cause of chronic cough, the number of pertussis cases in the United States has risen alarmingly in recent years, especially among adolescents and adults. However, pertussis is still a relatively uncommon cause of chronic cough.
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Last Updated: April 01, 2009

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