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Persistent Coughs


The Coker Chest Clinic conducts thorough investigations into coughs and their causes, so that you can receive a quick and correct diagnosis, followed by a comprehensive treatment plan.

Coughing can be a symptom of a variety of conditions, including everyday illnesses such as the common cold or allergies such as hayfever. However, when you have a persistent cough (a cough lasting for three or more weeks), you should tell your doctor. This could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, especially if you are experiencing a persistent cough with phlegm (mucus).

It is also particularly important to seek medical help if you have a persistent cough after COVID-19 (coronavirus) as this could be linked to long COVID which can have a serious, lasting impact on your health. There are unfortunately many instances where a cough is dismissed as a non-serious issue by the sufferer, which can result in a life-threatening condition going undiagnosed and untreated.

Causes of persistent cough

There are many causes of coughing that are common and non-serious. In these cases, the coughing may stop by itself after a short amount of time or with treatment. These causes include:

  • Infection – some viral infections such as the common cold and influenza (flu) can cause coughing. Severe infections can cause bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Allergies – any allergies that affect the respiratory system can cause coughing, including hayfever
  • Respiratory conditionsasthma and chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD) are similar conditions that can cause coughing due to inflammation in the airways. Also in this category are sarcoidosis, chronic sinus disease, bronchiectasis and lung fibrosis.
  • Other – acid reflux (GORD/GERD) is characterised by the reflux of gastric vapour into the oesophagus, which can make you cough. Smoking is another cause of coughing, which can make diagnosis of an underlying condition, such as lung cancer, more difficult.

Less common causes of coughing include:

Associated symptoms

Due to the fact that coughing is a symptom of many different conditions, there are also many associated symptoms that can appear alongside it. More common symptoms include a sore throat, runny nose, wheezing, shortness of breath, hoarseness or a ‘lost voice’. Like the cough itself, if these only last a short amount of time and do not consistently reappear, the condition is most likely to be non-serious.

If the coughing appears with more serious symptoms, you should seek medical help as soon as possible. These include coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss, chest pain, ankle oedema or fever.

Investigations & tests for coughs

When diagnosing the cause of a persistent cough, it is important to look at the patient’s family history to see if there are any genetic risk factors, as well as conducting a clinical examination.

Following this, there are a number of tests that can take place dependent on the severity of the cough and associated symptoms.

  • Scans – a chest x-ray or CT scan may be able to indicate the presence of a tumour or lung diseases
  • Allergy testing
  • Bronchoscopy – a tube holding a light and camera is inserted into the airways to check for abnormalities and blockages
  • Spirometry test – a non-invasive breathing test to measure the function of the lungs
  • FeNO (nitric oxide testing)
  • Full lung function testing

Treatment for coughs

As coughing is not a condition, but rather a symptom, treatment will depend on the diagnosis of the condition causing the cough.

Conditions related to coughs

  • Asthma
  • Hayfever
  • COVID-19
  • Lung diseases
  • Heart failure
  • Lung cancer
  • Asbestos exposure
  • Food allergies
  • Acid reflux (GORD/GERD)

Book your consultation

To arrange a telephone, video or face-to-face consultation with our specialist consultant, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

020 7118 5600
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