StatPearls reports that cough is one of the most common medical conditions in the world, responsible for as many as thirty million clinical visits per year in the United States. And while the occasional cough is normal, as it expels irritants from your lungs, a persistent cough that lingers for more than eight weeks is a health concern you need to take seriously. Labeled as “chronic” by medical professionals, this particular type of cough usually results from underlying medical conditions.
Unsurprisingly, the demographic that is most affected by chronic coughs in the United States is the elderly. So today, we will discuss what you need to know about chronic coughs for seniors, including their causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Symptoms and Effects
Aside from actual coughing, chronic coughs stimulate other symptoms, such as a stuffy nose, shortness of breath, wheezing, heartburn, sore throat, hoarse voice, and heartburn. In most cases, you may even feel mucus dripping down the back of your throat. In rare and severe cases, you may even cough up blood.
Chronic coughs can impact your overall quality of life. As explained in our previous post here on Hyfe Blog, chronic coughs disrupt sleep, which can cause physical exhaustion, headaches, and abdominal pain. In addition, seniors are already more vulnerable to insomnia because their bodies produce less melatonin, and these effects can get amplified if they aren’t monitored closely.
The following medical conditions cause most chronic coughs in seniors:
- Postnasal drip or when your sinuses produce extra mucus, which drips down the back of your throat
- Acid reflux
- Respiratory infections like the flu, colds, or pneumonia
- Maintenance drugs like those for high blood pressure
Although rare, a chronic cough can also arise from more serious medical conditions like cystic fibrosis and aspiration. If this is a possibility, your medical provider could recommend that you get an x-ray or CT scan to get a more accurate diagnosis.
Your treatment for a chronic cough will depend on its cause. For instance, if you have acid reflux, you will be prescribed medication to neutralize the acid production. But if the cause of the cough is fungal or bacterial, you will need to take antibiotics for it.
Otherwise, your doctor might prescribe dedicated cough medications, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, and antibiotics to clear your respiratory tract.
Unfortunately, eldercare isn’t cheap. But there are ways available to get around this particular concern.
If you are in the USA, you can apply for federal health insurance: look for a local Medicare provider that can offer a plan suitable for your treatment needs.
A Few Examples of Care Providers
For example, in Colorado, Catalyst offers basic Medicare coverage for local seniors, including those that can fund your trips to the clinic. Similarly, Kelsey Care offers several Medicare plans in Texas, including “Rx Select,” which offers Part D. Part D helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. So if your doctor advises you to take prescription cough medicine, this can help reduce the costs.
You can also look into local healthcare organizations that offer programs for anyone over the age of sixty-five. For example, the Area Agency on Aging in Oregon provides long-term medical care to seniors, including “disease prevention” coverage, which could help pay for your visits to the clinic and medication.
You can check out more organizations offering Medicare coverage here.
Although cough is one of the most common medical conditions in the world, of course, not every chronic cough needs treatment with medication. If the cause is mucus build-up in your throat, drinking warm water may resolve the issue. For dry coughs, consider getting a family member to moisturize the air using a cool-mist humidifier.
Although it is not possible to treat a chronic cough completely, there are many ways seniors can prevent the symptoms and manage the attacks. Always start by asking your doctor about what is causing your cough and the appropriate treatment options. Then, you can complement your doctor’s information by consulting reliable online sources (written, edited, and reviewed by healthcare professionals) such as Medscape and Mayo Clinic.
You can also use the Hyfe app to track your cough dynamics and share your findings with a licensed physician. They will advise you if you can continue to treat it at home or if you need to head to a clinic for more tests.