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. 2009 Dec 16;5:11.
doi: 10.1186/1745-9974-5-11.

Acute Cough: A Diagnostic and Therapeutic Challenge

Free PMC article

Acute Cough: A Diagnostic and Therapeutic Challenge

Peter V Dicpinigaitis et al. Cough. .
Free PMC article


Background: Acute cough is one of the most common complaints prompting patient visits to healthcare professionals. Despite the broad repercussions of acute cough on patient quality of life, school and work productivity, and public health resources, research on this condition is minimal, as are the available treatment options. Many patients use over-the-counter medicines, which are often ineffective for symptom relief. Some therapies may achieve antitussive activity, but at the expense of unpleasant or intolerable side effects.

Unmet needs: When considering the treatments currently available for the management of acute cough, the multiple limitations of such treatments are quite apparent. Most of these treatments lack clinically proven efficacy and reliability to support their use. This reinforces the need for the generation of quality scientific data from well-performed clinical trials. Hopefully, the result will be the development of safer, more effective and more reliable therapeutic options in the management of acute cough.

Cough assessment and management: Acute cough can be due to a variety of causes, and it is worthwhile to consider these pathogenic factors in some detail. It is also important to be familiar with the effects that acute cough has on patients' quality of life, work productivity, and the healthcare system; proper awareness of these effects may contribute to better understanding of the social impact of cough. In reference to the available treatments for the management of acute cough, adequate knowledge of the type of over-the-counter and prescription products in the market, as well as their mode of action and advantages/disadvantages, may provide expanded pharmacotherapeutic opportunities and facilitate better clinical decisions. However, due to the drawbacks of current treatment options, ideas for future cough management and newer products need to be considered and tested.

Conclusion: In view of the socio-economic impact of acute cough and the limitations of available treatments, a renewed interest in the management of acute cough needs to be encouraged. The current strategies for acute cough management need to be reassessed, with a focus on developing new, reliable products and formulations with proven efficacy and safety.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Algorithm for assessment of acute cough in patients ≥ 15 years of age (adapted with permission from Irwin et al., 2006) [8]. (URTI = upper respiratory tract infection; LRTI = lower respiratory tract infection; UACS = upper airway cough syndrome; COPD = chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

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