Chronic cough remains a challenge to many clinicians because there is often no diagnostic link to causation, and because indirect antitussives are largely ineffective. Chronic cough can also be a predominant symptom associated with many chronic respiratory diseases such as COPD, asthma and pulmonary fibrosis. Chronic cough itself does impair the quality of life and is associated with psychological impairment. The symptoms associated with chronic cough include persistent tickling or irritating sensation in the chest or throat, hoarse voice, dysphonia or vocal cord dysfunction. Currently, the clinical diagnosis of cough is associated with chronic cough caused by airway eosinophilic conditions such as asthma, gastrooesophageal reflux disease or post-nasal drip (or upper airway syndrome), which implies cause and effect, or with chronic cough associated with other diseases such as COPD, cancer or heart failure, that does not necessarily imply cause and effect. A recently-recognised category is idiopathic cough, with no associated or causative diagnosis. We suggest that there is a better label needed for chronic cough, that includes the common association with a hypersensitive cough response to tussive stimuli such as capsaicin or citric acid. This would invoke a hypersensitive syndrome, and there are good reasons to use a new label that would encompass the problem of chronic cough: the chronic 'cough hypersensitivity syndrome'. This would focus the problem on the cough symptomatology and lead to greater focus on understanding the mechanisms of cough sensitisation, with the ultimate aim of obtaining more effective antitussives.
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