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What Can Cause a Constant Cough?

A constant cough may be a symptom of lung cancer.
Smoking can cause a constant cough.
There are many possible causes of a constant cough.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2014
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A constant cough is usually considered to be a condition that lasts for more than a few weeks, and can be caused by acid reflux, smoking, asthma, lung diseases, and certain types of lung cancer. Sometimes developing a minor illness such as the common cold or influenza may exacerbate these conditions and lead to a constant cough. Other times, the cough develops over time and becomes more prominent as time goes on.

The causes of a constant cough generally all have one thing in common. They all involve something blocking the airways in the lungs, resulting in coughing, which is the human body’s way of trying to remove the blockage. Most causes of cough are temporary, such as chest congestion due to a cold or brief inhalation of smoke. A constant cough is usually caused by a more serious condition, such as large amounts of tar or mucus in the lungs or a aspiration.

One cause of a constant cough is smoking. This is commonly referred to as “smoker’s cough” and is caused by tar and mucosal buildup in the lungs. As long as the person continues smoking, consistent coughing may continue throughout his or her life. If he or she manages to quit, oftentimes the lungs can regenerate themselves and cough may subside from several months to a few years after quitting.

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Certain medical conditions, such as asthma, may also cause a constant cough. Lung disease is another possibility, as well as certain types of cancer. In fact, chronic and severe cough is one of the primary symptoms of lung cancer. It may be accompanied by chest pain and wheezing, although sometimes there are no symptoms present at the time of diagnosis.

Reflux or aspiration of food into the lungs may also cause a constant cough. Sometimes this can be treated with diet and medication, and the cough may subside. Other times surgery may be needed, or food and drink may need to be thickened to keep it from coming back up and into the airways.

Any time a cough lasts more than a week or two, primarily if it is severe and accompanied by mucus or chest pain, a doctor should be consulted to rule out a serious medical condition. Many times there is a simple explanation, such as lingering allergies due to the environment. In some rare cases, a potentially life-threatening illness may be to blame, and treatment will need to begin quickly.

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Perdido
Post 4

I have a near-constant cough from post nasal drip. My allergies make mucus drain out of my nose and into my throat all the time, even though I take a daily antihistamine.

The drip intensifies when I lie down at night, and I sometimes have to prop my head up with an extra pillow in order to keep from choking on it. When I get up the next morning, I cough for about an hour, and I can tell that there is mucus in my chest.

Even during the day, the mucus in my throat makes me cough. I don't necessarily cough anything up during this time, but the constant irritation just causes the reflex of coughing.

kylee07drg
Post 3

@cloudel – Sometimes the same thick dust that causes a dry constant cough in one person could cause a productive one in others. I once developed a bad chest cough that lasted for weeks after cleaning a filthy outdoor utility room.

Unlike you, I didn't wear a mask, so the dust and dirt went right up into my nose and lungs. Later on that day, I started coughing up phlegm, and this cough was persistent. I couldn't really breathe for more than a few seconds without having a hacking fit.

The phlegm was trying to capture the irritants that had gotten into my lungs, and the cough was my body's way of expelling them. I finally coughed everything I had in there up, and I started to get better.

cloudel
Post 2

I had a constant dry cough for months, but I noticed that it went away after I left the office for the night. So, I determined that something in the building must be causing it.

The air ducts probably hadn't been cleaned in years, but there was nothing I could do about that. I did notice that none of the equipment or shelves around my desk had been dusted in a very long time, so I put on a mask and cleaned them thoroughly.

For the rest of that day, my cough was pretty bad, but I knew that this was because I had stirred up the dust in the air. The following day, my cough lessened, and the next day, it was barely there at all. So, getting rid of your dry cough can be as simple as cleaning your work area.

StarJo
Post 1

A constant cough is a symptom of emphysema, which my grandfather had. He developed the condition in his late seventies, and before long, he was hacking up phlegm all the time.

He had been a smoker for years, and after he quit smoking, he chewed tobacco for decades. He was a prime candidate for emphysema.

Sadly, there was no cure for this condition. He eventually died of it, and he had that constant cough right up to the end.

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