Clinical cough II: therapeutic treatments and management of chronic cough

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2009;(187):277-95. doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-79842-2_14.


Chronic cough is a common and frequently disruptive symptom which can be difficult to treat with currently available medicines. Asthma/eosinophilic airway disease and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease are most commonly associated with chronic cough but it may also trouble patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. Over the last three decades there have been a number of key advances in the clinical approach to cough and a number of international guidelines on the management of cough have been developed. Despite the undoubted benefit of such initiatives, more effective treatments for cough are urgently needed. The precise pathophysiological mechanisms of chronic cough are unknown but central to the process is sensitization (upregulation) of the cough reflex. One well-recognized clinical consequence of this hypersensitive state is bouts of coughing triggered by apparently trivial provocation such as scents and odours and changes in air temperature. The main objective of new treatments for cough would be to identify ways to downregulate this heightened cough reflex but yet preserve its crucial role in protecting the airway. The combined efforts of clinicians, scientists and the pharmaceutical industry offer most hope for such a treatment breakthrough. The aim of this chapter is to provide some rationale for the current treatment recommendations and to offer some reflections on the management of patients with chronic cough.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antitussive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / drug therapy*
  • Cough / physiopathology
  • Cough / therapy
  • Humans
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Reflex / physiology


  • Antitussive Agents