Coughing is the body’s natural way of clearing the breathing passages. Things like air pollution or simply swallowing the wrong way can trigger a cough. However, there are also certain health conditions – some concerning – that can also cause a chronic cough.
In this article, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family doctor from Vancouver, British Columbia, writes about the most common health-related causes of chronic cough and what you can do about it.
The glands in the lining of your nose, throat and airways produce mucus – a thick, wet substance that keeps those areas moist and helps to trap and ultimately destroy invaders such as bacteria and viruses before turning into infection. When you’re sick or dealing with allergies, this mucus can be excessive and run down the back of your throat. This is known as postnasal drip, which can result in coughing fits. If the mucus is not clear, it can develop into an ear or sinus infection, so it is important to treat whatever the underlying condition may be. Certain over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, decongestants can help relief postnasal drip. Dr. Ali Ghahary will also sometimes prescribe patients prescription-strength nasal sprays to help with their symptoms.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Commonly referred to as GERD, this is a condition in which stomach acid flows back up into the tubes that connect your throat and stomach. Patients with GERD will often complain of heartburn, regurgitation, coughing and wheezing as their main symptoms. In order to prevent GERD and its’ related symptoms, Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests avoiding spicy foods, as well as making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking. Medications known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) can help to relieve symptoms of GERD. There are many different PPIs to choose from, so it is all about finding one that is best suited for the patient.
Asthma occurs when the airways become inflamed, thus triggering a cough and other symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath. Asthma can be the result of allergens such as pet dander, pollen, dust, mold, chemicals, and cigarette smoke, as well as viral infections. To treat asthma, Dr. Ali Ghahary will prescribe patients with inhaled medications such as Ventolin (Salbutamol), FloVent (Fluticasone), or Symbicort, just to name a few. These help open the airways and allow the patient to breathe better.