One of the more annoying nuances in life may be “that constant cough” that refuses to go away. If you find that you are constantly coughing, you are most likely suffering from a chronic cough, which is defined as a cough lasting more than six weeks. Although smoking may be the first thing that comes to mind for those who are constantly coughing, it is reported that about 40 percent of those affected with chronic cough are non-smokers. Be sure to see a doctor if you are suffering from chronic cough so you can determine the correct underlying cause and receive relief. Below, we listed four possible reasons why you’re constantly coughing that might surprise you.
When you think of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you may think it only causes heartburn, but it is also a common cause of chronic coughing. GERD develops when stomach acid travels back up the esophagus instead of to the intestines. Although occasional heartburn may be caused by eating spicy food, GERD is often due to a weak esophageal sphincter muscle, which allows the food back up the esophagus.
Chronic coughing can occur with GERD when the stomach acid irritates the nerves of the esophagus. It is often a dry cough that occurs. When it comes to determining the cause of a chronic cough, GERD is often overlooked, especially if heartburn is not present. Not all people with GERD have the typical pain associated with the condition, but instead present with a chronic cough and possibly a sore throat.
If GERD is successfully treated, symptoms, including chronic cough, should decrease. Treatment for GERD includes dietary changes, medication and in some instances surgery to repair the weak sphincter muscle.
ACE Inhibitor Medication
One of the frequent, but lesser-known causes of a chronic cough is ACE inhibitor medications. ACE inhibitors are a classification of medications used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure and coronary artery disease. There are several different ACE inhibitors, and a chronic cough is a side effect of some. According to the National Institutes of Health, the cough caused by taking ACE inhibitors is usually a dry, non-productive cough.
If the cough is severe enough or interfering with sleep or regular activities, your doctor may be able to switch you to a different type of ACE inhibitor that does not cause chronic coughing.
Bad quality air, including any air pollution from car exhaust, factories, cigarette smoking (first or secondhand smoke), burnt objects, and other toxic fumes can inflame the airways and cause chronic coughing. Sometimes, cough-inducing air pollution is not as obvious when it is in low doses and does not exhibit odors or visible particles, but can still induce extreme irritation of the respiratory airway. For example, some cases of asthma are triggered by long term exposure to environmental pollutants without the affected person knowing so. Hence, be sure to check your city’s website on air quality, and take the necessary precautions if needed to protect yourself.
Keep in mind, it’s not only normal to produce mucus, it is helpful. Mucus helps trap and get rid of bacteria and other foreign substances from the body. Normally, you probably don’t even notice mucus, but if it is produced in excess or becomes too thick, it can drip down the back of your throat and cause post-nasal drip. The mucus from post-nasal drip tickles the throat, which causes you to cough. The most effective way to decrease chronic coughing caused by post-nasal drip is to treat the underlying problem. Post-nasal drip may be due to allergies, sinus infections or colds.
If you’ve never experienced a chronic cough before, and suddenly begin to constantly cough, it may signify that there is an underlying medical condition that should be solved before it progresses to an irreversible medical problem. One way to easily decrease the risk of chronic coughing is to stop cigarette smoking, and stay away from inhaling second hand smoke. If you are or have been constantly coughing for no reason, be sure to see a health care provider as soon as possible to rule out further complications and relieve the chronic cough.