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How Long Should a Cough Last: Reasons Behind Persistent Cough

how long should a cough last

When you are exposed to various irritants such as smoke or even dust, your body undergoes a reflux action (a cough) to make sure your airways are kept clean from these irritants and mucus. Most often the question is how long should a cough last?

How Long Should a Cough Last

One of the main concerns for a person is whether a cough is due to some serious medical reason, but usually, a cough does not mean that there are any serious issues with your health. Though there are many different types of coughs, it is easy to separate them into two distinct categories: a dry cough and a chesty cough.

A dry cough is called so because there is no production of phlegm, and your throat and the cough itself may even feel dry. It also gives a little tickling sensation when you cough. On the other hand, a chesty cough produces a lot of mucus and can even hurt your chest a little bit. It comes from deep within to ensure that your chest is cleared properly.

A cough can last from 2 days to up to three weeks; there is no specific time allocated to how long a cough will last. Usually, coughs do not need any treatment and will go away by themselves without any medications. Therefore, if you have a persistent cough, do not worry too much as it is entirely reasonable. However, if a cough is different from the two mentioned above or lasts for a longer time, it is best that you consult your doctor immediately to ensure that there are no other causes for it.

Duration of a Cough

To further investigate into the length of a cough and the reason behind it, we will divide it into two categories.

Short-term Cough

There are a few common reasons why a person may experience a short-term cough, and these are listed below. There are times that short coughs can be a sign or a symptom of persistent or a long-term cough, which you may need to get checked if it stays longer than three weeks.

  • Upper respiratory tract infection – This disease affects a person’s windpipe, throat, or even the sinuses. Simple examples of these include flu, whooping cough, laryngitis, cold or sinusitis.
  • Lower respiratory tract infection – Your throat and windpipe will be safe, but your lungs and the lower airways will be affected. Examples of this include the likes of pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • An allergy – The cough may occur during the peak allergy season and can result in hay fever or even allergic rhinitis.
  • Long-term health conditions – There are a few health conditions such as asthma, COPD, or bronchitis due to which your airways or lungs can flare up, causing a short-term cough.
  • Smoke or dust – If you are at a place where there is a lot of dust or smoke, the chances are that you will develop a cough which will probably go away when you leave the area.

Long-term Persistent Cough

There can be multiple reasons behind such a cough, which can be one of the reasons listed below. In some cases, a persistent cough can actually be a sign or a symptom of a serious illness or health condition. Such conditions can include the likes of tuberculosis as well as lung cancer or pulmonary embolism. If you have a persistent cough, then it is important for you to know how long a cough should last so that you will be able to determine the correct time to visit your doctor.

  • Long-term respiratory tract infection – The cough can originate in either the chest area or the upper part of your body, but it will last for a longer time. One clear example of this is chronic bronchitis.
  • Asthma – This illness is not as rare as one would think. Those who do have it may experience bouts of persistent coughs throughout their lives. The cough can also cause or be accompanied by a few other symptoms of asthma such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or tightness in the chest.
  • An allergy – Dust or pollen allergies are a couple of reasons why a person may experience persistent coughs. Consistent exposure to such an environment can prolong the cough as well.
  • Cigarettes – A smoker may witness a lot of coughs as well, and it can also be a symptom of COPD.
  • Bronchiectasis – Our airways have the ability to abnormally widen themselves, due to which they undergo more irritation from the stuff present in the air we breathe, thus the cough.
  • Mucus dripping at the back of your throat – There will be a time when your body will create so much mucus that it will start dripping back your nose and into the windpipe. This condition will cause a cough and sinus or rhinitis problems.
  • GORD – Gastroesophageal reflux disease is when your stomach acid starts to leak which causes your throat to get irritated.
  • Medicine – Some medications that have been prescribed to you by your doctor have the ability to cause persistent coughs too. It is a side effect that you will have to witness.

Other Reasons for Persistent Cough

Some other reasons why you may be undergoing a cough, be it short term or persistent, can include the following:

  • Cold or flu which causes irritated airways even after the condition itself has been cured. As mentioned earlier, it is the irritated airways that cause a reflux action which is a cough.
  • You can even have a cough due to stress. If you have a cold and, at the same time, you are stressing too much, the chances are that it will prolong and your cough will linger as well. This is the reason why doctors recommend rest when you are sick so that your body can relax and cure itself earlier.
  • Everyone tells you to take more fluids when you are sick. This is because they help loosen up the mucus built up in your throat, thus helping you get better quicker.
  • If your airway is dry or extra moist, there are chances that you will cough to bring the body back to its original condition.

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