When to Worry About a Cough That Won’t Go Away

By | January 30, 2019

How to know if you have cough-variant asthma

Top view of a close up of the hands of a female doctor is inserting a pressurized cartridge inhaler into an inhalation chamber on a medical demonstration on her desk - Medical respiratory disease Click and Photo/Shutterstock

What It Is: “Asthma occurs when something triggers the airways to get inflamed,” says Dr. Rho. “It is usually a dry cough that causes your airways to narrow. Symptoms can include a recurrent cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath.”

What Causes It: There are two causes of asthma: Allergies or a non-allergic response to stress, exercise, or illness.

Treatment: If you suspect that you have asthma, you may need to undergo breathing tests; your doctor may suggest you try out an inhaler. Plus, anyone with asthma will want to be eating this one food.

You may have postnasal drip

Businesswoman with a seasonal winter fever and chill blowing her nose on a white handkerchief as she sits in the shadows in her officestockfour/Shutterstock

What It Is: This is also known as upper-airway cough syndrome. “It feels like exactly how it sounds—something may be dripping down from your nasal passage into the throat, constantly irritating your epiglottis and vocal cords and causing a cough,” says Dr. Rho. It may be a more wet cough, as your body is producing more mucus.

What Causes It: “It can be caused by a virus, bacterial sinusitis, or a number of allergies, including seasonal allergies like hay fever, that cause watery, itchy eyes, and a runny nose,” says Dr. Rho. These are the 10 reasons you can’t stop sneezing.

Treatment: There are a number of treatments for postnasal drip. “You can use a number of treatments, including nasal irrigation, saline rinses, or a Neti pot. There are many OTC nasal sprays, antihistamines (like Benadryl, Zyrtec, or Allegra). You could also use a nasal steroid like Flonase, says Dr. Rho.

You may have GERD

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What It Is: It stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease; it’s basically a severe form of heartburn. “The stomach’s acid secretions can back up from your stomach into the esophagus, mouth, and epiglottis, and that triggers a cough,” says Dr. Rho. You may taste something sour in the back of your mouth or burning regurgitation.

What Causes It: Spicy or fried foods, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, foods high in citrus, like some fruits and tomatoes. “You may also notice it if you lay down immediately after eating,” says Dr. Rho. “There’s another type called silent reflux, in which you reflux all the time regardless of eating.”

Treatment: Modify your diet by minimizing the foods that trigger symptoms, says Dr. Rho, and eat at least three hours before bedtime. OTC heartburn medications or prescription medications may also help. These are the foods people with GERD should avoid.

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