With review and feedback from Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. ENT doctor Nicholas Stowell, MD (Concord)

After a week of feeling miserable, you finally kicked your cold. You can breathe through your nose again, your throat doesn’t hurt, and you’re not tired all the time. But your cough is another story. It just won’t leave. Why is it so stubborn?

What are coughs?

Coughs are symptoms of a condition, not a condition themselves. Coughing is an involuntary reflex the body uses to get unwanted particles or irritants out of our airway. These include dust, liquids, or phlegm after a viral illness.

Why do I still have a cough?

Nicholas Stowell, MD

The cough is usually the last part of an illness to clear up. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to last as long as a month or so. Why? Well, you might have some lingering post-nasal drip that is irritating your airway. Also, after you’ve been sick your airways are overly sensitive, so a small irritant or even cold air could be enough to start you coughing again.

“Coughs are a natural way for our body to clear irritants and can sometimes be present for weeks after a viral upper respiratory infection,” CEENTA ENT doctor Nicholas Stowell, MD, said.

How can I help make my cough go away?

Letting your body heal from the irritation the cough has already caused is a good way to help make any lingering cough vanish. Try to stay hydrated, both by drinking lots of fluids and running a humidifier in your home or office. Throat lozenges can help, too, as the medicine in them helps lubricate the throat, soothe irritated tissues, and increase saliva production.

Could something else be causing it?

A lingering cough could have other sources. For example, chronic allergies or acid reflux could irritate your throat and make you cough. Blood pressure medicines and other medications sometimes list coughing as a side effect. Also, a condition like asthma may also exacerbate a cough.

Is it a sign of something more serious?

Sometimes, you may experience severe coughing-related symptoms even if your cough is cold-related. These could include breathlessness, dizziness, vomiting, hoarseness, an inability to sleep, and even a loss of bladder control. Even if it is just cold-related, you’ll want to visit a doctor, as they can help you find some relief.

If your cough lasts more than eight weeks, or you experience shortness of breath, weight loss, excessive mucus, or a fever, visit a doctor, as this could be a sign of something more serious.

If you are coughing up blood, definitely see a doctor right away. You could have anything from bronchitis to pneumonia, COPD, tuberculosis, or even lung cancer.

A lingering cough can be aggravating, but with a little self-care you can feel better before too long. And if it’s something serious, CEENTA’s ENT doctors would be happy to help you breathe easy again.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Would you like an appointment with Dr. Stowell? Call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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May 22, 2020

Reading all this helped me alot. I have coughed for years, these past 4 or 5 years it's always phlegm and alot. Now for like 5 weeks, I have no voice really. It's very foolish. But I couldnt feel any better. Now I know what to c doc for. Thank you lots.
- peggy timmons

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