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A variety of factors can cause a chronic cough. Sometimes, more than one factor may be responsible. Find out some chronic cough causes and how to kick them.

RELATED: Chronic Cough Symptoms & Treatment | Why Am I Coughing? 

Common Causes of Chronic Cough

Chemical Irritation

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Chemical irritation from smoking is one of the leading causes of a chronic cough. And it can be a sign of severe underlying conditions such as pneumonia, emphysema, or cancer. Luckily, persistent coughs for non-smokers are usually less worrying. 

Some of the most common causes of chronic cough include:


Infections such as flu, pneumonia, or the common cold cause coughing. Sometimes, long after most other symptoms clear up, a cough can linger because the airways may remain inflamed.

More severe infections like fungal lung infections, tuberculosis, and other bacterial infections may also cause a chronic cough.


Chronic bronchitis causes long-term inflammation of the airways that can cause a cough. This can be a part of an airway disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that typically occurs as a side effect of smoking.

Postnasal Drip (Upper Airway Cough Syndrome)

In response to irritants or injury, the nasal membranes produce more mucus. The extra mucus has to go somewhere. If it drips down the back of the throat, it can trigger a cough reflex.

Most people with postnasal drip experience more coughing at night, and they’re usually aware of a tickling sensation in their throats. However, it’s not always the case, and coughing can happen at any time.

Moderately Common Chronic Cough Causes

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a condition where stomach acid makes its way back up the esophagus, resulting in heartburn, belching, and coughing, amongst other symptoms.

In some cases, GERD can cause coughing without heartburn. Stomach acid irritates nerves in the lower esophagus, which can lead to coughing as well.


Asthma can occur when an individual’s upper airways are particularly sensitive to irritants in the air, cold air, or exercise. 

Many people associate asthma with wheezing and breathlessness, but it’s not always the case.

With cough-variant asthma, for example, a persistent cough is often the only symptom.

At other times, allergens and irritants cause coughing without other asthma symptoms.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes airway obstruction. It includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and it mostly affects ex-smokers.

Blood Pressure Drugs

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have a notable role in treating heart failure and blood pressure.

Despite giving good results, ACE inhibitors have one drawback – chronic coughing. An estimated 20% of people taking ACE inhibitors experience persistent coughing.

These medications end in -‘pril’ and include benazepril, captopril, and ramipril.

Uncommon Chronic Cough Causes

Though it’s less common, environmental irritants can also cause a nagging cough. Perfume, detergents, and air fresheners are some of the culprits.

Some less common causes of a chronic cough include:

Food Particles or Foreign Bodies (Aspiration)

Aspiration is the medical term when food or saliva goes down the airway instead of the food pipe. The excess fluid can collect viruses or bacteria and can lead to the exasperation of the airway. In some cases, aspiration can follow on to pneumonia.


Excess mucus production can cause the airways to become larger than normal.


Bronchiolitis is a common condition that affects children. It is caused by a virus that causes inflammation of the bronchioles, which are small airways in the lungs.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis causes excess mucus in the lungs and airways, which can cause a chronic cough.

Heart Disease

Sometimes coughing and shortness of breath can be heart failure symptoms or heart disease and known as a heart cough. An individual with this problem may notice their cough gets worse when lying down.

Lung Cancer

While rare, chronic coughing can be a sign of lung cancer. People with lung cancer might also feel chest pain and have blood in their sputum.


This is an inflammatory disorder that causes small growths to develop in the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes, and skin.

Whooping Cough

Also called pertussis, a severe hacking cough marks whooping cough. The violent coughing can make it difficult for people with the disease to breathe.

Psychological Disorders

Mental factors, like stress, can produce physical symptoms, including cough. Psychogenic coughing is rare but persistent and can disrupt daily activities.

How To Kick A Chronic Cough

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Treatments for a chronic cough depend on the cause. A doctor will try to determine the exact cause and assess if there are any underlying medical conditions. 

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