Coughing can be a symptom of a variety of different disorders and illnesses. Often it will resolve when the disease resolves, or only happen periodically due to certain ongoing issues, but some people may develop a chronic, persistent cough. To determine the best course of treatment, it is important for sufferers to consult with a doctor so the underlying problem is correctly identified.
One of the most common reasons for a persistent cough is smoking. In addition to a myriad of other health problems caused by smoking, it irritates the throat and lungs, which can lead to what is commonly referred to as a smoker's cough. The best course of action to alleviate this is to quit smoking; as long as a person continues to smoke, he or she is introducing the trigger for the cough.
Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections can all lead to a persistent cough. There are numerous diseases that may be to blame; some common culprits are bronchitis, pneumonia, and the common cold. Sinus infections that cause post-nasal drip may also irritate the throat and cause an ongoing cough. Depending on the cause of the infection, antibiotics or anti-viral medication may help to clear it up. Over-the-counter cough suppressants, lozenges, and decongestants may all offer temporary symptom relief until the infection resolves.
A persistent cough may be the result of asthma. Asthma causes constriction of the airways, and patients typically experience coughing from time to time. Sometimes the cough becomes chronic, and in certain cases referred to as cough-variant asthma, it is the only symptom. These patients will typically be treated with the normal medications used for asthma, such as bronchodilators and steroids.
Another common cause of persistent cough is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Patients with GERD may experience ongoing irritation and spasms in the esophagus as acid splashes back into it from the stomach, which can then lead to coughing. To help with this issue, GERD sufferers should avoid things that trigger their reflux, such as spicy foods, and take their usual medications such as antacids or H2 blockers.
In addition to medications, there are certain home remedies that can help soothe a persistent cough. Breathing steam by using a vaporizer or taking a hot shower may offer some relief. Drinking extra liquids can help to break up mucous; hot tea, especially with some honey added, can be particularly soothing and also helps increase fluid intake. For those with allergies, avoiding allergens and other irritants is recommended.