Should a cough last for six months?
If a cough lasts for more than six months, what should that person do? My partner just says that it's a little cold or an allergy or something, but he's been coughing for 6 months at least. He doesn't smoke, either. What type of disease could cause this?
Typically a cough is worked-up depending on how long it has lasted. A cough is considered acute if it lasts less than three weeks. These coughs are usually caused by short-term infections (i.e. upper respiratory infections), most often the common cold caused by a run-of-the-mill virus. Coughs lasting between 3 and 8 weeks are termed subacute, and have a broader range of causes. Subacute coughs may be caused by persistent infections (such as with whooping cough, or pertussis) or post-nasal drip (often accompanied by the sensation of always having to clear one's throat). Asthma and gastro-esophageal reflux can also present with persistent coughing. Coughs lasting beyond 8 weeks are considered chronic; causes typically include reflux, asthma, persistent infections, and other types of lung disease. Any cough lasting 8 weeks or longer should be worked up with a chest x-ray regardless of smoking status. If the chest x-ray is not revealing, a trial of bronchodilators for asthma and a trial of antacids for reflux disease should be undertaken. If concern for asthma is high enough, formal pulmonary function testing should be done. Certain medications (classically a type of blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors) can also produce cough, and a time relationship between the cough and new medication use should be examined.
This answer 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 or (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.
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