Types of Cough: Chronic Cough Vs. Acute Cough

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Having a cough is typically a good signifier of some underlying health concern, which can be as simple as the common cold, or as dangerous as a lung disease or bronchiectasis. Whatever the reason, a cough is not something you should ignore.

Typically, there are two types of cough: a chronic cough and an acute cough. These two types of cough can indicate very different things, so we wanted to take the time to dive a little into the difference between the two, and explain the easy way in which you can tell the two apart.

Types Of Cough: Chronic Cough Vs. Acute Cough

The way to tell between a chronic cough and an acute cough is simple: a chronic cough describes coughs that last for over 4 weeks in adults (or over 8 weeks in children) and an acute cough is any cough lasting less than a month.

Acute coughs tend to be a typical symptom for common colds or even the flu, but with just a bit of treatment, they go away after a week or two. An acute cough will not last longer than 4 weeks so if you experience a cough that lasts for longer than a month, then you should seek medical attention.

Why Does A Chronic Cough Matter To My Health?

A chronic cough is usually an indication of a more serious underlying condition that requires medical attention. While a chronic cough is not a condition in itself, it is a symptom of conditions like asthma, GERD, respiratory infections, bronchiectasis (damaged airways), cystic fibrosis, and lung cancer.

All of these conditions require a medical diagnosis, not only to determine the underlying condition, but also to determine its severity and the right course of treatment.

Ignoring a chronic cough could result in any of the following:

  • Irritated airways

  • Induce an asthma attack

  • Reduced oxygen reaching your vital organs

  • A worsened condition that can lead to complications needing emergency treatment

Types Of Treatments For A Chronic Cough

Once a pulmonary specialist has examined your cough, they will have to test to determine the underlying cause for a cough. The treatment chosen will be targeted toward the underlying cause. Some treatment methods may include:

  • Antihistamines, glucocorticoids, and decongestants for allergies and post-nasal drip

  • Inhaled asthma drugs: Glucocorticoids and bronchodilators will reduce inflammation and open up your airways.

  • Antibiotics: In cases of bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed.

  • Acid blockers: Acid reflux sufferers may require acid blockers or noninvasive surgery when lifestyle changes don't take resolve the problem.

More Information

Telling these two types of cough apart is pretty simple, but treating a chronic cough involves care and medical attention so don’t let it slip by, even if it doesn’t seem like much! Remember that a chronic cough is almost always a symptom of an underlying cause. If you or someone you know are suffering from a cough that has gone on for longer than a month, then it’s time to see a pulmonary specialist. To see one of our pulmonary specialists, simply contact us or book an appointment today!