What to do if you have a persistent cough

Most coughs go away within a few weeks but some persist for longer, making everyday life a little more difficult. A cough that just won’t budge might not be anything serious but don’t diagnose yourself, see your doctor if you’ve had a cough for three weeks or more.


Causes of persistent (chronic) cough

Whereas a short-term cough may be commonly caused by cold or flu and can go away within three weeks or less, a persistent cough lasts much longer and can have a big impact on daily life. The most common causes are:

• Smoking – a smoker’s cough can be a symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

• Asthma

• Allergies

• Lung conditions such as bronchiectasis

• Prescribed medications

• A long-term infection such as bronchitis

• Post nasal drip caused by sinusitis

• Stomach acid irritating the throat from gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

It’s important to see your GP, especially if you experience the following:

• Your cough has lasted longer than three weeks

• The symptoms are severe

• Your cough shows no sign of improvement

• You cough up blood or have difficulty breathing

Although rare, chronic coughs can be a sign of something more serious. Do not delay and make an appointment to see your doctor.