Controversies in the evaluation and management of chronic cough

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011 Mar 15;183(6):708-15. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201007-1017CI. Epub 2010 Dec 10.


Chronic cough that cannot be explained after basic evaluation is a common reason for patients to be referred to respiratory outpatient clinics. Asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, and upper airway disorders frequently coexist with chronic cough. There is some controversy as to whether these conditions are causes or aggravants of cough. Heightened cough reflex sensitivity is an important feature in most patients. There is good evidence that it is reversible when associated with upper respiratory tract infection, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor medications, and chronic cough associated with eosinophilic airway inflammation. In many patients, heightened cough reflex sensitivity is persistent and their cough is unexplained. There are few therapeutic options for patients with unexplained chronic cough. There is a pressing need to understand the genetic, molecular, and physiological basis of unexplained chronic cough and to develop novel antitussive drugs that down-regulate cough reflex sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Antitussive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / complications
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / drug therapy*
  • Cough / etiology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Rhinitis / complications


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Antitussive Agents