A lingering cough is generally caused by the effects of an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, bronchitis, or the flu. Other chronic conditions, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis may also produce a cough that lingers. Seasonal allergies such as hay fever may cause a lingering cough, and asthma may produce the same symptom. Viral or bacterial pneumonia may cause a hacking cough as well.
A dry cough in children may occur when the child is experiencing symptoms of whooping cough. Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a common disease affecting young children. This infection is caused by a strain of bacteria known as bordetella pertussis and affects the upper respiratory system. Bouts of uncontrollable coughing may be present, and this may be an intermittent condition that continues over the course of several weeks or even months.
Upper respiratory infections caused by the common cold or influenza, commonly known as the flu, may produce a lingering cough lasting from one to two weeks. This is primarily due to the body's natural defenses as it tries to remove mucus or fluid from the lungs. When an individual coughs up mucus from the lungs, this is known as a productive cough. A dry cough does not produce mucus or fluids.
Asthma and upper respiratory allergies can cause a cough that lingers. When an individual suffers from nasal allergies, coughing is a way to discharge foreign matter and irritants. The cough from allergies often lingers for the duration of the seasonal symptoms. Many seasonal allergies occur during specific times of the year.
Many individuals who are heavy smokers may experience what is known as "smoker's cough." A smoker's cough is characterized by persistent coughing. When an individual has been smoking cigarettes for an extended period of time, irritants from the effects of nicotine, as well as excess phlegm may accumulate in the throat, trachea, and lungs. These contribute to the smoker developing a chronic, lingering cough.
Ways to treat a lingering cough caused by respiratory infections and allergies may include the use of cough suppressants or expectorants. Cough suppressants are useful for controlling a dry, hacking cough. An expectorant can help to loosen chest congestion, thus making the cough more productive. By doing so, the patient is able to effectively discharge mucus from the lungs and bronchial tubes.