Before treating chronic cough, doctors must properly diagnose its cause. Lung specialists in the Temple Chronic Cough Program commonly begin with a physical exam, a review of the patient’s medical history and various tests.
Common questions the doctor will ask include:
- Does the cough start in the morning and last all day? Does it start at night?
- Is it a dry cough or is mucus present?
- Could the cough be triggered by ACE inhibitors or other medications?
- Is the cough accompanied by heartburn, vomiting, hoarseness or difficulty swallowing?
Because many chronic coughs are caused by asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux) or upper airway cough syndrome (post nasal drip), our lung specialists consider these conditions first. If one of these conditions is diagnosed, the doctor will treat it appropriately.
Intranasal steroid spray or antihistamines are often first tried to treat post nasal drip. When the problem is acid reflux, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, elevating the head of the bed, avoiding certain foods, and taking medication to suppress stomach acid may be recommended.
If the cough continues despite treatment, further tests may be needed to look for a more serious condition, such as COPD or lung cancer. Common tests include:
- Chest X-ray or CT scan
- Lung function tests (for asthma or COPD)
- Sputum culture