What causes a cough?
The most common causes for a cough are:
- Postnasal drip
- Allergies (environmental or food)
- A sinus infection
- Upper respiratory infections
- Neurogenic cough / post viral cough
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- A malignancy or chronic inflammatory process (in extremely rare instances)
What are self-care remedies can the providers at AAENT recommend for treating a cough?
- Quit smoking.
- Stay hydrated, fluids can soothe an irritated throat.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air during dry months.
- Avoid exposure to irritants, including: smoke, dust, or other pollutants.
- Use over the counter cough medicine containing dextromethorphan and guaifenesin
When does a cough require medical intervention?
You should visit the doctor if your cough is severe, lasts longer than 14 days, or occurs in conjunction with 1 or more of the following symptoms:
- Chills, night time coughing fits and the inability to sleep.
- A fever that persists for more than 3 days.
- When your cough produces excessive or bloody mucus.
You should seek immediate emergency for a cough that’s accompanied by one or more of the following:
- Excessive wheezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness
- Coughing up blood (a possible sign of internal bleeding)
How does AAENT evaluate acute and chronic cough?
The providers at AAENT begin by taking a medical history, discussing each patient’s symptoms, and conducting a physical examination. In addition to the standard exam that can be performed by a primary care physician, our providers will perform a flexible laryngoscopy to evaluate for signs of inflammation, tumors, or irregular movements of the vocal cords. Sometimes for further evaluation a videostroboscopy will be required, which allows the doctor to see a closer look at the larynx, so he can better evaluate the movement of the larynx. This is especially helpful when evaluating difficult to treat chronic cough.
Here are some treatment methods for both acute and chronic cough:
- Antibiotics, if your cough is caused by a bacterial infection.
- Antihistamines and decongestants, if the underlying cause is an allergy or postnasal drip.
- Antitussives, which is a prescription cough suppressant and generally only used if previous treatments are ineffective.
- Glucocorticoids and bronchodilators, to relax your airway if your cough is related to asthma.
- Anti-reflux medications.
- Oral and topical glucocorticoids.
- Medications to modulate nerve conduction from the larynx, “the reset button for the cough.“
- Injections to fix “leaky vocal cords,” common in the elderly and in certain neurological conditions. These injections can now be done safely and easily under local anesthesia.
- Surgery to remove vocal cord tumors (rare instances)