How long will my cough last after a chest cold?
Howard E. Lewine, MD
A chest cold suggests that you had bronchitis caused by a viral infection. A cough can persist for two to three months after an episode of bronchitis.

Your immune system almost surely fought off the actual infection within a week. An infection in the bronchial tubes can leave you with inflamed airways. These inflamed airways will cause the coughing. The inflammation also can lead to tightening of the bronchial tubes. You might notice:
  • A tight feeling in your chest
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath when you exert yourself
  • Mild fatigue
I usually prescribe an albuterol inhaler (Proventil, Ventolin, generic versions) to use on an as-needed basis. Adults can take up to two puffs every 4 hours as needed. If this does not control the cough, sometimes an inhaler that contains corticosteroid can be added. Rarely, a person might need 7 to 10 days of oral corticosteroid (prednisone or methyl prednisolone).

There are other possible reasons for a persistent cough, such as postnasal drip. Also, it's possible that you had a cold and now allergies are responsible for the inflamed airways and coughing.

Although the cough after bronchitis can last for 3 months, contact your doctor if the cough is not getting better after another couple weeks. Depending on the circumstances, I often order a chest x-ray when a person has a cough for more than 6 weeks.
Harvard Medical School Viruses and Infectious Diseases: Protecting yourself from the invisible enemy

More About this Book

Harvard Medical School Viruses and Infectious Diseases: Protecting yourself from the invisible enemy

Have you ever wondered whether you are truly protected from infectious diseases ranging from the common cold to more deadly threats like rabies or bird flu? When you travel, are you protected from...

Continue Learning about Cold and Flu

Cold and Flu

Cold and Flu

Colds and flu are both viral infections, but have different symptoms. With a cold you will have symptoms such as a runny nose or a sore throat. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and may include fever, body aches or vomiting. While the...

re is no cure for either, there are treatments -- chicken soup, nasal sprays, rest -- which can help your feel better.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.