Are you suffering from Coughing?

Coughing is a widespread symptom resulting from a healthy reflex of the respiratory tract meant to clear the airways. It is sometimes a transient, mild, and self-limited symptom, but depending on its severity and quality, it can be relevant to diagnose significant health problems.

Common causes can be divided into acute cough and chronic cough.

What causes an acute cough?

Acute cough is limited to a short period, usually 15 days or less. It may have a sudden or insidious onset, and common causes include infectious and allergic diseases.

  • Common cold and other respiratory infections: Most infectious diseases of the respiratory tract feature either dry or productive cough. In the latter, the sputum can be transparent or contain pus and debris.
  • Croup: It is more common in children, and caused by a viral infection. Patients with croup experience respiratory distress, a hoarse voice, and the onset is often abrupt and tend to worsen at night. The symptoms won’t usually last for more than 2 days, but these patients often need medical attention to recover faster.
  • Asthma: It is a common respiratory condition that involves allergic reactions and inflammation of the airways. The inflamed airways are narrow, patients display a wheezing sound when breathing in, and the cough reflex becomes activated.
  • allergies: Seasonal allergies often cause wheezing and cough as predominant symptoms. It can be a consequence of allergic rhinitis, and a transient reflex to prevent aspiration of foreign particles and substances into the respiratory tract.

What causes a chronic cough?

Chronic cough is diagnosed when this symptom is reported for 8 weeks or more. It is usually caused by a complication of another health problem, or as a result of medications for chronic diseases.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): In GERD, acid reflux causes irritation in the esophagus and significant inflammation. Acid reflux may also affect the larynx, causing a hoarse voice and cough.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Asthma: It is a consequence of long-term exposure to irritants of the respiratory tract. The most common cause is cigarette smoking, and patients develop a chronic productive cough that is usually aggravated in the morning.
  • Upper Airway Cough Syndrome (UACS): Caused by environmental allergens
  • Medications for chronic disease: Certain medications for chronic diseases may cause cough as a side effect. The most common is angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors). They are drugs used to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

Cough Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Cough is a common complaint, and it is usually diagnosed by considering the characteristics of the symptom, other accompanying signs and symptoms, a complete blood count, and an X-Ray. Viral infections will be treated with support measures to relieve the symptoms, bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, and allergic conditions can be treated with corticosteroids, nebulization, and inhaled medications.

In some cases, repeated episodes of acute cough and cases of chronic cough should be evaluated by a pulmonologist, a specialist in the lungs, and the respiratory tract. He will be able to assess and follow-up complicated cases, do Pulmonary function test and provide appropriate treatment to control cough and other symptoms associated with the respiratory tract.


Lady Coughing

The physicians and staff at NOVA Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Associates are committed to providing excellent care in all aspects of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Disorders.  With offices located in Lansdowne and Dulles/South Riding, we offer care for the entire Northern Virginia region, serving locations from Chantilly, Fairfax, Centreville, Manassas, Gainesville, Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Leesburg, Ashburn, Brambleton, Purcellville and more.

FAQs About Coughing

What is a cough? A cough is a reflex action that helps clear the airways of mucus, irritants, or foreign particles. It involves a sudden expulsion of air from the lungs, often accompanied by a distinctive sound.

What causes a cough? Coughs can be caused by various factors, including respiratory infections (such as the common cold or flu), allergies, irritants (like smoke or dust), postnasal drip, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even certain medications.

When should I be concerned about a cough? You should be concerned if your cough is persistent (lasting more than a few weeks), accompanied by high fever, severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, or if it is significantly affecting your daily life. These could be signs of a more serious underlying condition and warrant medical attention.

What are the types of cough? Coughs can be categorized as productive or non-productive. A productive cough brings up mucus or phlegm from the respiratory tract, while a non-productive cough is dry and doesn’t produce mucus. A chronic cough lasts for more than 8 weeks in adults or 4 weeks in children.

How can I relieve a cough at home? For a mild, non-productive cough, staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and consuming honey (for those over a year old) can provide relief. Over-the-counter cough suppressants or expectorants might help, but it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before using any medication.

When is medical treatment necessary for a cough? Medical treatment is necessary if you have a persistent cough, coughing up blood, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or any other severe symptoms. A healthcare provider can diagnose the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

Can a cough be a symptom of COVID-19? Yes, a cough is one of the common symptoms of COVID-19, along with fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue. If you suspect you might have COVID-19, it’s important to follow public health guidelines, get tested, and seek medical advice if needed.

How is a chronic cough diagnosed? A chronic cough is diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and potentially tests like chest X-rays, lung function tests, or bronchoscopy. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for effective treatment.

Can allergies cause a cough? Yes, allergies can trigger a cough, especially when allergens like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander are inhaled. This is known as an allergic cough or allergic rhinitis.

Is a cough always contagious? A cough can be contagious if it is caused by an infectious condition like a cold or the flu. Coughing helps spread respiratory droplets containing the virus. To prevent spreading illnesses, it’s important to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and follow good hygiene practices.

If you have specific concerns about a cough, its duration, or severity, it’s recommended to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance.

Office Locations

Conveniently located near you in Loudoun and Fairfax VA

NOVA Pulmonary – Dulles
24430 Stone Springs Boulevard
Suite 200
Dulles, VA 20166

NOVA Pulmonary – Lansdowne
19415 Deerfield Avenue
Suite 301
Landsdowne, VA 20176

NOVA Pulmonary – Vienna
124 Park Street SE
Suite 203
Vienna, VA 22180