4 Surprising Reasons Your Cough Won’t Go Away

When confronted with a persistent cough, you probably immediately consider common explanations like respiratory infections, allergies, or asthma.

While these are indeed frequent culprits, a cough that lingers for weeks or even months or years may have its roots in less apparent causes.

If your cough is long-lasting, severe, painful, or accompanied by concerning symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, or coughing up blood, consult a healthcare professional promptly for a thorough evaluation.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation.

This condition can lead to a persistent cough by irritating the throat and the upper respiratory tract. Many individuals with GERD experience a chronic cough as their primary symptom, which can easily be mistaken for a respiratory issue.

Treatment for GERD-related cough typically involves lifestyle changes, such as avoiding foods that trigger acid reflux, eating smaller meals, and not lying down soon after eating.

In some cases, medications like antacids, H2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors may be prescribed to reduce stomach acid production and alleviate the cough.

Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip occurs when mucus accumulates in the back of the throat, causing irritation and triggering a cough reflex. This condition can arise from various causes, including sinus infections, allergies, and non-allergic rhinitis.

A persistent cough from postnasal drip can be particularly bothersome at night, disrupting sleep and leading to a vicious cycle of fatigue and irritation.

To address a cough caused by postnasal drip, the underlying condition must be treated. Antihistamines and decongestants may be recommended for allergies, while saline nasal irrigation and corticosteroid nasal sprays can help manage sinus infections and inflammation.

Additionally, maintaining proper hydration and using a humidifier can alleviate throat irritation and lessen the cough.

Medication Side Effects

A persistent cough may be an unexpected side effect of certain medications.

For example, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, commonly prescribed for high blood pressure and heart conditions, can cause a dry, chronic cough as a side effect. This side effect is thought to result from the buildup of bradykinin, a substance that can stimulate cough receptors in the airways.

If you suspect that a medication may be causing your cough, it’s crucial to consult your healthcare provider before making any changes. They can help determine if the benefits of the medication outweigh the side effects or recommend an alternative medication to alleviate your symptoms.

Psychological Factors

Conditions like anxiety or stress can cause unconscious tightening of the respiratory muscles, leading to a phenomenon known as psychogenic cough. Furthermore, a prolonged cough can become habituated, ingrained as a reflex even after the initial cause has been resolved.

Treatment for a psychogenic cough may involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, stress management techniques, or counseling to address the underlying emotional or psychological factors. In some cases, medications like low-dose antidepressants may be prescribed to help manage anxiety and suppress the cough.

Understanding these lesser-known reasons behind a persistent cough is essential when searching for the appropriate treatment to alleviate symptoms. By considering the complexities of a cough and exploring all potential causes, you can work with your healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your unique situation.