Chronic cough is caused by several conditions, including postnasal drip, allergies, asthma, bacterial and viral upper respiratory infections (URIs), chronic sinusitis, chronic bronchitis (a form of COPD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), congestive heart failure (CHF), exposure to airway irritants, such as chemicals, pollution, and perfumes, certain medications for high blood pressure (ACE inhibitors), and smoking.
Chronic lung infections, such as tuberculosis (TB), as well as lung cancer or cancer that has spread from other organs to the lungs, also cause chronic cough.
Chronic cough can additionally be caused by a condition known as Cough Hypersensitivity Syndrome (CHS), or habit cough.
Postnasal drip is a common condition where extra mucus is produced in response to allergens or upper respiratory infections (URIs) that irritate the throat and produce cough. This type of common chronic cough is also known as Upper Airway Cough Syndrome (UACS).
Allergic reactions to pollens (trees, grass, ragweed), dust, and pet dander may trigger chronic cough.
Asthma may cause chronic cough. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, and excessive mucus production. However, some types of asthma that are triggered by exercise or cold air may cause a persistent dry cough.
Upper respiratory infections (URIs), such as the common cold, flu, or pneumonia may cause a persistent cough that lasts for a few weeks (one-to-three), even after the infection has subsided.
Chronic sinusitis involves inflammation of the nasal and facial sinuses for three months or longer and can cause chronic cough due to infected postnasal drainage. Chronic sinusitis has several causes, such as allergies, nasal polyps, immune-related conditions, and respiratory tract infections and requires medical treatment.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammation of lungs that has two common types: 1) chronic bronchitis, and 2) emphysema, both of which cause chronic cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Chronic bronchitis causes swelling of the bronchial tubes in the lungs with a build-up of mucus, difficulty breathing, and frequent coughing. Emphysema damages the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs and reduces oxygen saturation to the blood. Many individuals with COPD have both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is most often caused by long-term exposure to cigarette smoke or other lung irritants. People with COPD have an increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer as well as other conditions. COPD is a progressive disease that requires medical treatment.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where stomach acid backs up into the lower esophagus causing heartburn, can cause chronic cough. This stomach acid reflux irritates nerves in the lower esophagus, triggering coughing.
ACE inhibitors, which are medications for high blood pressure (lisinopril, captopril, enalapril and ramipril), can cause a chronic dry cough.
Smokers often develop chronic cough, known as “smoker’s cough,” in addition to other conditions, such as chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung cancer.
Tuberculosis is a highly contagious lung infection that causes fever, night sweats, and severe cough with bloody phlegm.
Lung cancer, in addition to other symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath, is also characterized by a chronic, productive cough that increasingly worsens and may include bloody phlegm.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is when a weakened heart cannot adequately pump blood, usually due to coronary artery disease and/or high blood pressure, which leave the heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump properly. Symptoms of CHF include persistent cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, swelling in the lower legs, and chest pain.
Cough Hypersensitivity Syndrome, or habit cough, is currently believed to be caused by neurological abnormalities.