Coughing is an essential body reflex, one that protects the body from foreign irritants. Through coughing, the body works to remove the detected irritant before it has the chance to do any harm. However, we often see people dealing with a persistent cough. In such a case, the cough can reflect negatively on one’s everyday life and routine, not to mention that it can be one of the early signs of a much more serious health issue.
For a cough to be defined as chronic or persistent, it should persist for longer than eight weeks in adults and four weeks in children
. Chronic cough
is known to be the most common symptom presenting in adults seeking medical treatment. According to researchers, chronic cough presents in up to 10% of the general population (1).
Chronic Refractory Cough
Chronic refractory cough is a chronic cough that persists despite guideline-based treatments. About 20 to 46% of patients who present themselves at a specialized cough clinic are diagnosed with chronic refractory cough (2). Before diagnosis it is also referred to as unexplained cough, or idiopathic cough. In the majority of cases, an underlying cause of cough can be found, such as asthma. However, for some patients, this is not the case and it can take years before they end up at the right physician who can help them with the right diagnose.
Chronic cough is not to be ignored
Cough is a signal of the body. If cough persists, it is always advised to seek medical attention. It is important to rule out any underlying medical cause.
Impact of cough
Struggling with a chronic cough without seeking treatment can be quite damaging in terms of your social and everyday life. People with chronic cough might experience sleep issues because of it (3). In some cases, such as postnasal drip cases, the cough tends to worsen at night. As a result, the person can experience daytime fatigue, lower concentration, and mood swings throughout the day. In return, productivity and work/school performance can significantly decline.
Living with a chronic cough can have a negative influence on one’s mental health as well. It can cause anxiety, depression, high-stress levels, and even lower self-confidence (4). Such events can often be seen in the cases of idiopathic chronic cough and during the period in which the doctor is trying to accurately diagnose the root of the problem.
Chronic cough is not to be underestimated or ignored, knowing that it can be an early sign of a much more serious health issue. Throughout the years, there have been many different factors identified as causes for chronic cough. Talk about it with your healthcare provider.
Chronic cough and COVID
With the outbreak of the new coronavirus and the many death cases due to COVID-19, chronic cough has gotten a new meaning. Being one of the key symptoms of COVID-19, along with tiredness and fever, anyone who is experiencing persistent dry cough is advised to schedule a visit to the doctor.
Perotin et al. (2018); Managing patients with chronic cough: challenges and solutions; Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 2018:14
Peter Dicpinigaitis (2020); Understanding the Foundations of Chronic Cough; The American Journal of Managed care 2020:26
Young et al. (2010); Quality of life in patients with chronic cough Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Disease 2010:4(1)
Hume et al. (2017); Psychological profile of individuals presenting with chronic cough; ERJ Open Research 2017:3
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