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Chronic Cough

Coughing when you don’t need to can get in the way of your daily activities. Speech-language pathologists, or SLPs, can help. Visit ProFind to locate a professional in your area.

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About Chronic Cough

Coughing helps you clear your throat and lungs and can even prevent infection. But sometimes a cough can become chronic. Chronic cough is a cough that lasts more than 4 weeks in children and more than 8 weeks in adults. 

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Cough

Chronic cough can be annoying, and it can interrupt your sleep or give you a headache. Here are some symptoms of chronic cough:

  • frequent need to cough
  • rough-sounding voice from frequent coughing

Causes of Chronic Cough

The most common causes of chronic cough are

  • asthma or other breathing problems,
  • allergies or sinus problems that cause “dripping” down the back of your throat, and
  • acid reflux (stomach acid that rises into the throat).

Sometimes, chronic cough can be caused by other things like a cold, bronchitis, or certain medications used to treat high blood pressure. For some people, chronic cough is caused by an especially strong instinct to cough. 

Seeing a Professional

Testing for Chronic Cough

You will probably see a team of professionals to find out if you have chronic cough. The SLP is an important member of the team. Other members may include the following:

  • allergist
  • pulmonologist
  • otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor)
  • gastroenterologist

The team will go over your medical history and ask how long you have had the cough. They will ask about the medicines you take and if you smoke. They may recommend a chest x-ray or other tests.

The SLP or doctor can look at your vocal folds through a tube, called an endoscope, that goes in through your mouth or nose. This will let them see if your vocal folds and the areas around them are red or swollen. The SLP may also test your voice to see if there are any changes in vocal quality that the cough might be causing.

Treatments for Chronic Cough

The goal of treatment for chronic cough is to give you the tools to manage your cough. You also will become aware of what triggers your cough so that you can avoid those triggers.

You may need medical treatment for chronic cough if you have a medical condition—like asthma, allergies, or reflux—that triggers the cough.

SLPs work closely with your doctors. Treatment by an SLP focuses on

  • helping you understand chronic cough and what might trigger your cough,
  • teaching you ways to help reduce coughing, and
  • teaching you ways to keep your vocal folds healthy. 

See information for professionals on ASHA’s Practice Portal pages on Voice Disorders and Aerodigestive Disorders.

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