What should I do about a cough that won't go away?

Moshe Ephrat, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)
If you have a cough that won't go away, treatment options will depend on the cause of that cough; allergies, sinus infections and acid reflux are main culprits. Watch ENT surgeon Moshe Ephrat, MD, explain the steps to take to treat a nagging cough.
Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine

See your doctor to evaluate coughs that won't go away or get worse after a respiratory illness. Don't expect antibiotics, but know there are other treatment options. After many upper respiratory viruses, coughs will linger, sometimes for up to six weeks. A cough that is not managed with over-the-counter medicines should be addressed by your physician. Coughing all day long at school or work (or keeping up your spouse with coughing all night) is not a good plan.

What can your doctor do? First of all, he or she needs to rule out any secondary infection such as a pneumonia. More commonly, you may have developed some over reactive airways and may benefit from some inhalers or other asthma-style of medicines. A prescription cough syrup used at night may help with the nighttime exacerbations, and your doctor can remind you of some traditional home remedies such as cool mist humidifiers that may help.

Finally, sometimes a cough comes from other sources, such as acid reflux or sinus drainage, which require different treatments.

Continue Learning about Lung Disease and Respiratory System

Lung Disease and Respiratory System

Lung Disease and Respiratory System

Diseases, pollutants and genetics can affect your respiratory health. The simple cold - which is caused by more than 200 different viruses - inflames the upper respiratory tract, resulting in a cough, runny nose and sneezing. A mo...

re severe cough combined with mucus is a sign of bronchitis, where the membranes lining the bronchial tubes become inflamed. The inflammatory lung disease asthma affects more than 20 million people, making airways constrict when exposed to irritants like dust, pet dander and cigarette smoke. Pneumonia, another inflammation of the lungs, can occur because of a bacterial or viral infection. People suffering from cystic fibrosis, an inherited lung disease, frequently battle bacterial infections and airways clogged with thick and sticky mucus.

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.