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How To Fix A Persistent Cough

Tips For Treating A Persistent Cough

Written by Dr. Lina Patel - Genexa Healthcare Provider & Partner on October 18, 2021

Medically reviewed by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology

There’s nothing worse than a nagging, persistent cough. It can keep you up at night, stop you from exercising, and get in the way of your day-to-day functioning.

If you or someone you love is dealing with a persistent cough, this article will give you all the info you need to understand why you’re coughing and how to fix it.


What’s important to remember with coughs is that while they are pesky and can be uncomfortable, coughing serves a really important role in our body. Anytime there’s something icky in your body like excess mucus or microbes, you cough to remove those particles from your lungs so that they don’t cause infection or inflammation.

What’s going on when I cough?

That being said, you might be wondering: what’s really going on when you cough?

Basically, when you do that big inhalation that comes before a cough, you pull as much air as possible deep into your lungs. After that initial inhalation, something called the glottis which is essentially the lid to your windpipe closes shut.

Once that lid is shut, muscles in your chest cage, stomach, and diaphragm contract, which builds up pressure in your chest. The lid then reopens which allows the air to rush out of your lungs. This great rush of air causes you to produce a coughing sound.

Regular Cough vs. ChronicCough

It’s important to be able to identify your cough as either a regular cough (which there are several types of) or a chronic cough. The main variable when determining what kind of persistent cough you have is time. If your cough lasts longer than eight weeks, then it can be categorized as a chronic cough. If your child’s cough lasts longer than three to four weeks, it can be called a chronic cough.

Causes of Persistent Cough

Although regular and chronic coughs tend to sound the same, with the main difference between them being how long they last, the causes of these two types of cough differ slightly.

Regular Cough

The main cause of a regular cough (also known as an acute cough) is illness. Several common illnesses such as the common cold, flu, pneumonia, and whooping cough all come with a cough. Another cause of an acute cough is inhaling an irritant or anything that is bothersome to your lungs. Common irritants include smoke, dust, or chemicals.

Although there’s tons of different types of regular coughs, the main category they’re broken into are wet and dry coughs. You know you have a wet cough when you cough up bits of mucus or phlegm and it feels like there’s something rattling around in your chest or throat. Wet coughs are also known as productive coughs because they draw things out of your lungs which is really beneficial in helping you get over a nasty cold or the flu. For the most part, wet coughs are a result of a buildup of phlegm in the lower respiratory tract.

If your upper respiratory tract is inflamed or irritated, chances are you’ll have a dry cough. Your upper respiratory tract doesn’t have as many of the glands that produce phlegm, so there’s nothing to cough up when this part of the respiratory tract is inflamed. If you’ve ever had a tickle in your throat and felt the need to cough, then you’ve experienced a dry cough. That being said, there are some underlying conditions that can cause a dry cough, so it’s important to pay attention to how long your dry cough sticks around.

Chronic Cough

Although a chronic cough can be dry or wet, for the most part, coughs that last this long tend to be dry and are caused by several things.
The main cause of a chronic cough is smoking, hence the phrase “smoker’s cough.” A smoker’s cough is the result of repeated irritation in the lungs caused by the inhalation of cigarette smoke. Although a smoker’s cough is not technically a reason for concern in and of itself, it can develop into far more serious things such as lung cancer and pneumonia.

Another common cause of a lingering, chronic cough is postnasal drip (don’t worry, it sounds worse than it really is!). When your nose or sinuses make more mucus than what your body actually needs, the extra mucus can drip down the back of your throat. This creates an uncomfortable feeling and can trigger your cough reflex.

You might also experience a chronic cough if you have asthma. Oftentimes coughs induced by asthma come and go with the seasons and can get worse when you’re breathing in cold air or irritating particles. There’s even a specific type of asthma called cough-variant asthma where a chronic cough is the primary symptom.

If you fall ill with pneumonia, the flu, or just a nasty common cold, you might find that your cough lingers far longer than the other symptoms. Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections can all lead to a chronic cough in both adults and children.

Gastroesophageal reflux diseases, also known as GERD, is another super common cause of a chronic cough. GERD causes stomach acid to flow into your esophagus, the tube that connects your stomach and your throat. This causes irritation that triggers your cough response.

Additional Symptoms

Although the main symptom of both a regular and chronic cough is, obviously, coughing, other symptoms often accompany both types of cough. It’s a good idea to take note of any additional symptoms you experience alongside your cough so you can figure out what’s causing it and, consequently, what the best treatment option is.

Regular Cough

If your acute cough is a result of an illness such as the common cold or flu you might experience some of the following symptoms alongside your cough:

  • Fever (more common with the flu)
  • Aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache

If you think you have developed a cough due to allergies, then you might also experience symptoms such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, red, or watery eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Swelling of your eyes, face, or lips
  • Rash or hives

Chronic Cough

Similarly to a regular cough, there are a few symptoms to look out for that might occur with a chronic cough including:

  • Sore throat
  • Post nasal drip
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Hoarseness

While those symptoms maybe be uncomfortable and leave you feeling run down, you should immediately call a doctor if you experience the following symptoms with your chronic cough:

  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Noticeable weight loss

Ingredients To Look For

Both a persistent acute cough and chronic cough can become really bothersome if they go untreated. Luckily, there are several ingredients that can soothe your own or your little one’s cough.

Traditional cough medicine is often too strong for children younger than four, so if your toddler (or any child over the age of one) has a pesky, persistent cough, you can give them honey as an alternative. This tasty remedy can soothe coughs associated with dry throat and irritation.

Suppose you know that your persistent cough results from the flu or a residual symptom of the flu. In that case, you can try a homeopathic remedy consisting of certified organic ingredients to address it. A homeopathic blend of ingredients combined with organic acai berry, organic carnauba wax, and organic maltodextrin to help with taste to assist the symptoms like a cough, body aches and headache, fever, chills, and fatigue, and congestion, and sore throat.

Suppose you think your persistent cough is a result of seasonal allergies. In that case, you can also try a homeopathic blend along with certified natural ingredients like organic tapioca and rice bran extract to address symptoms associated with hay fever or other respiratory allergies. These ingredients can help your irritated eyes, sinus pressure, nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, or an itchy throat and nose.

Given that a persistent cough can often interfere with sleep, you can also try melatonin-free homeopathic remedies that include valerian root to promote deep and restful sleep so you can wake up feeling refreshed.


If you or your kid has a persistent cough, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible so that it does not develop into a chronic cough. Given that there are several different types of coughs and causes of coughs, try to identify what exactly is causing the cough so you can choose the best course of treatment.

Once you’ve figured out the cause of the persistent cough, there are several natural ingredients available to soothe your cough and get you or your little one breathing easy again.


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