Cough: a worldwide problem

Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2010 Feb;43(1):1-13, vii. doi: 10.1016/j.otc.2009.11.001.


Cough is a common and important respiratory symptom that can produce significant complications for patients and be a diagnostic challenge for physicians. An organized approach to evaluating cough begins with classifying it as acute, subacute, or chronic in duration. Acute cough lasting less than 3 weeks may indicate an acute underlying cardiorespiratory disorder but is most commonly caused by a self-limited viral upper respiratory tract infection (eg, common cold). Subacute cough lasting 3 to 8 weeks commonly has a postinfectious origin; among the causes, Bordetella pertussis infection should be included in the differential diagnosis. Chronic cough lasts longer than 8 weeks. When a patient is a nonsmoker, is not taking an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, and has a normal or near-normal chest radiograph, chronic cough is most commonly caused by upper airway cough syndrome, asthma, nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis, or gastroesophageal reflux disease alone or in combination.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bronchitis / complications
  • Bronchitis / diagnosis
  • Bronchitis / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Common Cold / complications
  • Common Cold / diagnosis
  • Common Cold / physiopathology
  • Cough / diagnosis*
  • Cough / epidemiology
  • Cough / etiology
  • Cough / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Time Factors