Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Why won't my cough go away?"

ZocdocAnswersWhy won't my cough go away?


I have had a deep, barking cough for about a month now, and instead of getting better, it is becoming deeper and more frequent. Last winter, I had a similar cough, and was prescribed a Flovent inhaler for lung inflammation, so I did try that again for 2 weeks with no effect. I do not remember having a cold at the time this started, and I do not have a history of athsma or allergies. What might this be?


Coughs lasting about a month have a variety of different causes. One such cause is a prolonged infection or repeated infections. This could be with the more common viral upper respiratory infection, especially if you have been exposed to other sick contacts. Another prolonged infection to consider is pertussis, or whooping cough, which is a bacterial illness that is starting to affect more of the adult population as vaccination rates have dropped off in recent years. Your doctor can test you for this , but unfortunately treatment doesn't help this far into the illness (typically the cough in this case is resolved by 2 months). Another common cause of prolonged cause is upper airway cough syndrome, also known as post-nasal drip. In this scenario, often caused by allergies or sinusitis, you may feel like there is irritation of the back of the throat due to mucus coming down from the nose. Decongestants and nasal steroids can often bring relief if this is the cause. Other causes to consider are asthma or other lung disorder, gastroesophageal reflux disease (which can present only with cough), or the side effects of any medications (such as ACE inhibitors). You should see your primary care physician to discuss these issues. He or she may choose to do a chest x-ray if your cough continues to persist.

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.