The first thing that might come to mind when you’re dealing with a persistent cough these days is COVID-19. While coughing is certainly a “classic” symptom of the virus, along with fever and loss of smell, there are many other reasons why you may have a lingering cough that have nothing to do with this or any virus at all. Find out the most common causes of persistent coughs as well as how to get rid of a cough by employing new lifestyle habits and easy home remedies.
What Causes a Persistent Cough?
Before getting into causes, it’s important to understand the purpose of a cough. A crucial player in your defense against disease, coughing is your body’s attempt at getting rid of an irritant. A cough can be conscious and voluntary or it can be uncontrollable and involuntary. In the involuntary situation, coughing is typically triggered by infections, allergies, cold or dry air, chemicals like smoke, dust particles, or by body fluids such as nasal mucus or stomach acid.1 Coughing can even be triggered by dehydration.
When it comes to a persistent cough, some serious illnesses like bronchitis or pneumonia may be to blame. However, even this type of cough typically resolves in a few days or a few weeks, unless diagnosed as chronic conditions. When coughing lasts longer than three weeks, causes may include:2
- Smoking: Whether you are a current smoker or a former one, smoking is one of the leading risk factors for chronic cough.3
- Postnasal drip: When your nose or sinuses produce too much mucus, it may drip down the back of your throat and trigger your cough reflex. Postnasal drip may occur with viral infections or because of allergies and irritants in the air.4
- Asthma: The main symptom of cough-variant asthma is a chronic cough, though other forms of asthma may produce coughing after upper respiratory tract infections or when exposed to cold air or certain chemicals.5
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): In patients affected by GERD, their stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing constant irritation that can lead to chronic coughing.6
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow. This may include bronchitis and emphysema and is a common complication for smokers.7
- Blood pressure drugs: Common blood pressure drugs known as ACE inhibitors are associated with a chronic, hacking cough.8
- Infections: In some cases, a cough can persist after other symptoms of pneumonia, flu, a cold, or other infections of the upper respiratory tract have gone away.
And while a persistent cough may also be a sign of lung cancer, it will usually come with other telltale signs like a cough that produces blood, pain in the back, neck, or shoulders, shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue.9 If you experience symptoms like these, it’s probably best to check in with your doctor for a screening.
Medication for Persistent Coughing
Though millions of Americans use over-the-counter medications every year to suppress coughing, there is actually no evidence that common cough medicines actually suppress or stop coughing when compared to placebo.10 In most cases, these medications “work” by masking symptoms with harsh chemicals that may actually cause harmful side effects like dry mouth, grogginess, jitteriness, and contraindications.
An alternative to chemical-laden medication, Brillia Health’s Cough Control is a homeopathic cough remedy that uses antibodies, naturally occurring proteins and components of our immune system that are individually programmed to target specific molecules with zero off-target effects. Cough Control uses the following specific antibodies:
- Lapine Histamine immune globulin: Histamines are to blame for dreaded cold/flu symptoms like sore throat, wet cough, and fluid buildup in the lungs. Lapine Histamine immune globulin is an antibody that targets these histamines and stops them from producing these symptoms.
- Lapine Bradykinin immune globulin: Bradykinin is known as a protussive mediator, or in less complicated terms, a promoter of coughs. It also contributes to inflammation in the respiratory tract. Lapine Bradykinin immune globulin is an antibody that binds to bradykinin and stops it from promoting coughs.
- Lapine Morphine immune globulin: Despite sounding like a powerful painkiller prescribed for injuries and illness, the morphine that occurs in our bodies is quite different. Morphine and morphine receptors in our bodies are responsible for sending pain signals to our brain. Lapine Morphine immune globulin is an antibody that binds to morphine and prevents it from sending pain signals to our brain, leading to reduced pain from the cough or sore throat and less stress on your system.
As the antibodies in Cough Control are busy reducing inflammation, congestion, and fluid buildup in the lungs, and dramatically decreasing the severity and frequency of your cough, you don’t have to endure any of the undesirable side effects associated with other common cough suppressants. There are also no contraindications either, so you can safely take Cough Control with any other prescription medications without worry.
Lifestyle Habits & Home Remedies for Persistent Coughing
Other lifestyle habits and home remedies to employ to get rid of a persistent cough include:
- Quit smoking: Smoking doesn’t just contribute to a persistent cough. It harms nearly every organ in the body and is associated with cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.11
- Use a humidifier: Dry air can be a cough trigger for many people because it can irritate your nasal passages all the way down to your lungs. Humidifiers improve the air quality in your home, which may then improve your persistent cough.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration may also contribute to your chronic cough as well as leave your body susceptible to illnesses that cause coughing. Make a habit of drinking plenty of fluids to keep your body healthy and keep coughing at bay.
- Use honey: In a study of honey’s effect on coughing, honey appeared to be as effective as a common cough suppressant ingredient, dextromethorphan. It not only suppressed coughing, but also helped patients sleep better.12
- Try probiotics: Probiotics may help reduce coughing associated with upper respiratory tract infections, according to multiple studies.13 Probiotics may also balance gastrointestinal flora, which can help reduce coughing associated with GERD.14
Chronic coughing can put an enormous amount of stress on the body, so finding natural solutions that build up the immune system is crucial in feeling better faster. Always remember to invest in good health by maintaining a healthy diet, prioritizing sleep, exercising, and choosing a cough remedy that uses clean, targeted ingredients.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.