Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Are older people more inclined to cough?"

ZocdocAnswersAre older people more inclined to cough?


Is coughing more just the sort of thing we should expect from people as they get older? Both of my folks have taken pretty good care of themselves and their lungs, and yet they both are developing wheezy, asthmatic ? sounding coughs. Is this natural?


Cough is a common symptom of many diseases, not a disease itself. As you can imagine, as we age we all accumulate more diseases--and some of these are associated with cough. Therefore, to answer your question--yes--older people are more inclined to cough. That being said--the disease that is causing the symptom of cough needs to be found. I would recommend having your parents see their primary care doctor. The common causes of cough should be ruled out. If this is a recent development, then one should rule out lung infections--like a pneumonia or a viral infection. Often these are associated with shortness of breath or fever. These are important to treat early if this is the case. Cough, in the setting of wheezing, especially in the elderly is concerning for COPD. COPD is a common condition that stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. You may have heard of emphysema or chronic bronchitis --both of which are subsets of COPD. This is more common in smokers--if your parents have smoked than I think this maybe the most likely condition. If they smoke---they should stop. Talk to your doctor about this. There are other causes of chronic cough that again are common in the elderly. Reflux disease (or heartburn) can cause chronic cough. Asthma can cause cough. So can post-nasal drip (allergies). Finally, medicines can cause a cough--especially notorious are lisinopril (or any blood pressure medicine ending with -pril). Some of the above diagnoses are serious and need to be treated. I would recommend taking your parents to their doctor.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.