Why see your doctor about a chronic cough?

Going to see your GP is the first step to finding out why your cough won't clear up

Going to see your GP is the first step to finding out why your cough won’t clear up

Most cases of persistent cough are not due to lung cancer. A recent Swedish study that looked at why people developed a chronic cough showed that lung cancer was not even in the top 20 identifiable causes.

Having a thorough check will set your mind at rest and should find out why you are coughing.

The cause of a chronic cough can be identified in almost 9 out of every 10 people. Once the cause is found, it can then be treated successfully. A persistent cough caused by underlying undiagnosed asthma or allergy, for example, clears up within weeks of starting treatment.

If you have been a long-term smoker, a chronic cough may not be caused by lung cancer, but investigating the cause of your cough may reveal an early lung cancer that could then be treated more effectively.

What is the definition of a chronic cough?

In general terms, a chronic cough is one that lasts a long time and is different from an acute cough. If you have a cold or flu, the infection will cause an acute cough, which usually improves and starts to become less of a problem within three weeks. A chronic cough has the following characteristics:

  • It lasts more than 6-8 weeks
  • In most people, a chronic cough is dry, or it produces sputum only rarely or in small amounts.
  • It is more common in people who are obese
  • It is commonly associated with an allergy, smoking, or an underlying chronic lung disease such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Referral to Dr Navani

Dr Navani frequently sees patients who are troubled by a chronic cough. It is important to check with your doctor if you have a cough that will not clear up, or that changes for the worse and does not then improve over the next three weeks.

If you see your GP, whether NHS or private, and they recommend that you see a respiratory specialist, Dr Navani can accept referrals to his private practice. If you are worried about a chronic cough and you want to refer yourself, that is also no problem. Contact us for more details.

A chronic cough can have many causes; not all of them are serious and many types of chronic cough can be successfully investigated and treated, once the cause is found.

How does Dr Navani investigate a cough?

Dr Neal Navani

Dr Neal Navani

“The most important starting point is to take a full history from you to identify what may be causing your chronic cough. Events and situations that trigger coughing or in which you find you don’t cough as much can be very revealing.”

“We then perform a range of tests, including lung function tests and spirometry, a full asthma check, allergy testing and a chest X-ray. Management of a chronic cough then depends on what we find.”

“We are able to identify the cause of a chronic cough in most cases; in the rest, there is no apparent physical cause. A chronic cough can also become a habit, and knowing that you don’t have a serious illness or any asthma or allergies can then help you to look at other possible factors such as stress.”