What is cough
Cough is a useful reflex to clear your throat of mucous. It is also a protective reflex to prevent unwanted material from getting into your airway and lungs. Coughing from time to time is normal but if you cough frequently or if it lasts a long time it can become very distressing. Often people feel uncomfortable when they cough, as it draws unwanted attention to them, or it can cause disruption to sleep.
If your cough lasts longer than 3 weeks it is classified as a chronic cough and it may suggest that you have an underlying abnormality of the lungs or airways.
What causes chronic cough?
Many diseases of the lungs and respiratory system can cause a cough. These include:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Upper respiratory tract viral infections
- Lung or chest infections
- Sinus disease and post nasal drip
- Lung cancer
Other causes of chronic cough include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
- Obstructive sleep apnoea
- Some medications
- Allergies and hayfever
When to seek help?
You should see your doctor if your cough is not getting better after 1 week or if you have any:
- Shortness of breath
- Wheeze of noise breathing
- Coughing up coloured phlegm or blood
- Fever or chest pain
How we can help you
Our doctors at Lung and Sleep are specialists at identifying the underlying cause for your cough. The most effective treatment for your cough will be based on identifying and treating the underlying cause. Following a thorough assessment and examination of your breathing and lung health, further testing is often required.
Tests that may be required to identify the cause for your cough include:
- Pulmonary function test
- Blood tests
- Chest X-Ray or CT scan
- Allergy testing
- Nasal endoscopy where a small camera (scope) is used to look inside your nose and sinuses
- Bronchoscopy where a small camera (scope) is used to look on the inside of your lungs while you are asleep
- Sleep study