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Harvard Health Blog
When a cough just won’t go away
- By Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
I’ve had a dry cough for 5 weeks and meds aren’t working. Could my Parkinson’s be causing the cough?
thanks for your post, i think it’s very good
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I have exactly the same symptoms like Cathy for about a year. A course of inhalers didn’t help, but a course of steroids stopped the cough for about a month and then the same symptoms returned and am still enduring them. Nothing seems to help. Help!
“When a cough just won’t go away”….I automatically think of lung cancer! That is exactly what happened to my sister and former spouse. A simple chest x-ray can tell if there is a mass in the lungs.
Yes, and this certainly needs to be considered and ruled out in everyone with chronic cough.
Cancer in the lung must be a quarter of an inch in diameter in order to be seen on a chest film.
By this time, MILLIONS of cancer cells have been released. A cat scan scan can detect cancer of the lung more accurately.
Former supervisor of pulmonary lab at NY Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center
Smoking cessation instructor for over 32 years
I have been coughing for 8months now ,have seen many doc’s but no help .mine is from throat and it’s a bit wet, am just worried what next to do.advise pls.
Unfortunately, I am unable to provide medical advice specific to your case in this venue; it is always best to see your own doctors. If the ones you have seen have been unhelpful, the best next step is to ask for another opinion. I wish you the best.
Good to read blog’s on Cough my self facing Chronic cough problem specially in Diwali and Cold season i think it is due to dry whether but it is so high that i cannot say what i am facing in diwali and cold season so you have some tips to cure this
Generally, we advise people to wash their hands often and especially after they have been out in public. This helps to curb upper respiratory infections.
Why has no one mentioned fungus in the airway ?
Sounds like it could be a cause many times.
Atypical bacteria and fungi can certainly cause chronic cough, but these are not that common in otherwise healthy people. These would be among the rarer things to be considered in the last step above.
“Low body temperature” is one of the common causes of cough. Of course “low body temperature” triggers sputum secretion and cough varies individually.
After excluding all other causes, keep body warm plus cough suppressants will gradually cure chronic cough.
This method works for me and my patients.
Yes, warm drinks can soothe an irritated airway and help to clear mucous.
It took more than 3 months to disappear. My medecin was clear, it will go by itself, I was dubitative because my voice was changing, feeble and unrecognisable besides the cough. Since I had no other symptoms, I could eat, I could swallow, speak, no pain but an unbearable dryness…It desappeared by itself. I suspected a psychological situation very tense. I paid attention to that . This special attention (my own care as I could understand).
I can say now that I worried and my doctor was so sure of himself. But he had no explanation for the phenomenon.
I am glad that you are feeling better.
I’m not surprised to find the aim of this article is “simply” treating the symptoms. As our trained elite, especially here in a first world country, you follow the expected path of: you exhibit this therefore you need (or dare I say) “we’ll try that” (big pharma can fill in the blank).
I’m curious if our elite system of doctoring will ever delve into the toxic soup (to varying degrees, of course) in which we live and might be the cause of the symptom? So many of these symptoms could be (likely are) environmental.
When you’re stumped you go for more expensive procedures but still may not get at the cause.
Surely, I’m an inexperienced person who has only managed 50 years breathing air. But, this article scared me.
It seems the investigative “doctoring” practices seemed to be lost in the equation. At least in this short article.
Replaced with searching for a code of “diagnosis” and then “treatment” and then payday. Rinse repeat.
Tom Morgan, you’re stupid.
I respect your opinion! I agree with you that the commenter below used inappropriate language and will ask the moderators to remove that. .
A syndrome noted widely recently is the”100 day cough”. A lot of us docs have had it and it is a light cough that produces modest amounts of clear to white mucous. No sore throat, no fever , no nothing and then one day it just goes away. Possibly an intracellular virus that eventually is handled by the immune system? Beats me. I am an internist in Florida and my brother is an internist in Omaha. Just as you are thinking you need a workup it’s gone. what do you think. JL
You know, it may be chronic cough due to this new hypothesis, the “aggravated nerves and airway dysfunction” brought on by whatever the original irritant was. This is still an area of investigation though.
I read in JAMA decades ago in a series of ‘Ask the Expert’ columns that excessive ethanol beverage consumption can result in chronic cough even after controlling for cigarette smoking that is obvious. Determining how much someone drinks is sometimes very problematic. Russell Currier DVM
Especially if they’re a dog or cat, right Dr. DVM?
Yes, many people aren’t ready or willing to divulge how much they really drink, this is true. I can see where excessive alcohol could contribute to cough through several mechanisms, including acid reflux and aspiration.
Interesting short review of causes of persistent coughing. In my experience down here in a tropical country as Panama, persistent coughing is associated more often than suspected to Mycoplasma pneumonia respiratory infection.
Yes, this is definitely a common cause of cough, though active mycoplasma infection is less likely to be the cause a cough lasting over 8 weeks. Perhaps it triggers reactive airways or aggravates nerve endings.
My cough is chronic and productive . It’s post nasal drip and cough with clear sticky coughed up . Cough stops for a while then starts again . Sometime I take mint hot tea which calms the cough for a while .,it’s also started with smoke , perfume and other scents and cold air
I love your ideas and knowledge. Please I like to subscribe your newsletters. Thank you.
I would suggest a visit to your doctor for an evaluation.
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