Dr. M.J. Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Chronic Cough: Causes and Cures

When should I call my doctor?

If you have had a cough for more than 3 weeks, it may be chronic. When something is "chronic" it means it lasts for a long time. Here are some questions to help you decide if you should see your doctor about your cough:

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, call your doctor. He or she will want to find out if you have an illness that is causing the cough. If you answered "no" to all of these questions, one of the causes listed below may be causing your cough.


Smoking can cause a cough that doesn't go away. If you smoke, you need to stop. Talk to your doctor about using nicotine patches, gum, inhaler or nasal spray, or another method to stop smoking.


Postnasal drip caused by allergies can cause a cough. Postnasal drip is mucus that runs down your throat from the back of your nose. If you have this, try to avoid the things you are allergic to, such as the following:

An over-the-counter antihistamine-decongestant combination may help stop your allergies and your cough. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you choose one.


Some medicines can cause chronic cough in some people. Some examples of medicines that may cause cough are the following:

Call your doctor's office to find out if any of the medicines you use could cause you to cough. If you are taking a medicine that can cause you to cough, your doctor might be able to prescribe another medicine for you. Don't stop taking a prescribed medicine unless your doctor tells you to.


Coughing can be a sign of asthma. In some people with mild asthma, a cough is the only symptom. Your doctor may ask you to try using some asthma medicine to see if your cough goes away. If it does, you probably have mild asthma. Regular treatment for asthma will help the cough go away.


Acid from your stomach may back up into your throat. This is called "acid reflux." It can cause heartburn or cough. Acid reflux is more common when you're lying down. If you have this problem, try raising the head of your bed about 4 inches. It might help to avoid eating or drinking for two hours before you lie down. You shouldn't drink alcoholic beverages or drinks with caffeine in them, or eat chocolate or spicy or greasy foods before you lie down. An antacid (such as Tums) or an acid-blocking medicine (such as Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet or Zantax) may also be helpful. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist.