Treating and Managing Chronic Cough

What to Expect

A diagnosis of chronic cough can be both confirming and frustrating. It is a relief to know that the cause of the symptoms you have experienced for so long can be identified. But that doesn't always mean that the cough itself will go away. You and your healthcare provider may have more work to do to manage living with chronic cough. A chronic cough can impact your quality of life and depending on the severity of the cough, may cause vomiting, muscle pain, rib fractures, urinary incontinence, tiredness, syncope, and depression. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about managing these symptoms along with your cough. Hear a patient’s perspective on living with chronic cough.

Treatment Options

If your cough is identified as being caused by a specific medical condition such as asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, sinus drainage issues, nasal polyps, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) there may be specific treatments prescribed by your healthcare provider that can be helpful in getting rid of the cough or at least making it more manageable. Even if the cough does not respond to treatment, often termed "chronic refractory cough" keep the conversation with your healthcare provider going to let them know how things are changing – or not.

Managing Chronic Cough

Lifestyle Changes 

Lifestyle changes are not a cure for your chronic cough but may help in managing your cough.

  • Avoid irritants. If you are aware of something that triggers your cough, try to decrease your exposure to this irritant.
  • Drink lots of fluids. This can help thin mucus and will keep you hydrated.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke is a lung irritant and can worsen your cough.  Learn more about quitting tobacco.
  • Soothe your throat. Hard candy, cough drops, or honey can help to soothe your throat.   However, do NOT give honey to children under one as it may contain bacteria that are harmful to them.
  • Moisturize the air. Use of a cool-mist humidifier may help decrease your cough.  Be sure to clean the water basin of your humidifier frequently.

While a chronic cough can feel isolating, you are not alone. Listen to this patient’s perspective  on living with chronic cough. Oftentimes people find comfort and support in reaching out to others experiencing similar challenges. In sharing stories, voicing frustrations and affirming hopeful resolution, you can ease the emotional toll chronic cough has on your life. 

Check out some of the supportive resources available to you:

Online Support Communities

The American Lung Association has free online communities on Inspire.com for individuals living with chronic cough and living with lung disease. Members can choose their level of participation and engagement. This online forum is a place for members to discuss challenges of living with chronic lung conditions and diseases.

Clinical Trials

You may qualify to participate in a clinical trial, a regulated research study in which people volunteer to test new treatments or therapies. It is important to consider all treatment options when living with lung disease.

Better Breathers Club

Better Breathers Clubs teach you ways to cope with lung disease and provide support from others who share in your struggles. These in-person support groups give you the tools you need to live the best quality of life you can.

Talk to an Expert

Talk to our trained lung health professionals at the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine. Our service is free and we are here to help you. Learn more

Page last updated: January 19, 2024

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