What Does a Persisting Cough Mean?

What Does a Persisting Cough Mean? | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Coughing is something we all do. A cough can be aggravated by things like allergies, the result of swallowing something the wrong way, or it could be due to a health problem such as a viral or bacterial infection (i.e. the common cold, flu, pneumonia.) With the right course of treatment (i.e. avoiding allergens and using a daily puffer or taking cough medicine and/or antibiotics when they are prescribed to you), your cough should eventually dissipate. However, if your cough does not get better or worsens over time, then it could be cause for concern. Aside from the aforementioned issues, below is a look at some of the other reasons why you might have a persisting cough.


By the year 2014, there were an estimated 2.4 million Canadians over the age of 12 who had been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma, which is defined as a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, causes symptoms such shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and yes, coughing. These symptoms, however, will vary from person to person. They can also range from mild to moderate, or even severe, and can flare up on occasion while you may also have periods where you don’t experience any symptoms at all for an extended amount of time.

While the specific cause of asthma isn’t really known, there are certain things that can trigger its symptoms such as exposure to allergens (like pollen, grass, trees and animal dander), and other air irritants like smoke, perfume and other chemicals. You can help to keep your asthma under control by avoiding these triggers, though you may also require use of control and relief medications. Controllers, also known as preventers, help to reduce inflammation in the airways and should be used every day – while relievers help to alleviate symptoms (such as wheezing) quickly.


COPD, also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is another condition that causes persistent coughing, and there are currently an estimated 500,000 Canadians over the age of 35 living with it. By the year 2020, it’s thought that COPD will be the third-leading cause of death on a global scale. As for what causes COPD, it is most common in individuals who smoke (or used to smoke) cigarettes. In fact, as many as 80 to 90 percent of those diagnosed with COPD either are or were smokers. However, it’s also possible to develop COPD as a result of being exposed to second-hand smoke, occupational dust and/or chemicals, as well as if you got frequent lung infections as a child. The most prevalent symptom associated with COPD is coughing, though that cough may also include mucus, you may feel short of breath, have lung infections that last longer than normal, or you may also feel more fatigued than normal. In some cases, COPD can also be diagnosed by having a chest X-ray, which can detect if there is any damage to your lungs.

There is no cure for COPD, but symptoms can be relieved with a variety of medications including bronchodilators and corticosteroids – often used in combination with each other.

Acid Reflux

The most common symptom that people associate with acid reflux is heartburn – however, that’s not the only symptom associated with this condition. You can also develop a chronic cough as a result of having acid reflux – and may notice your cough to be more prevalent at night or after eating meals. In mild cases of acid reflux, you may be able to find relief by using an over-the-counter antacid, though in severe cases your physician may need to prescribe you something stronger, such as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) or H2 blocker. Acid reflux can also be triggered by certain foods, such as tomatoes, certain fruits, foods that are high in fat, caffeine, chocolate, garlic and mint – so if you know what foods happen to trigger your acid reflux specifically, then it is important that you avoid these.