Causes of Chronic Cough in Non-smoking Patients

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2015:873:25-33. doi: 10.1007/5584_2015_153.


Chronic cough is a common medical problem. The aim of the study was to analyze chronic cough causes in non-smoking patients and to search for demographic factors associated with different cough reasons. The etiology of cough was determined by medical history, diagnostic tests and response to specific treatment. Patients with significant abnormalities in the chest radiograph or spirometry were not included. The study included 131 non-smoking patients; median age 54 years, 77 % female. The most frequent causes of cough were gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (62 %) and upper airway cough syndrome (UACS) (46 %). Cough variant asthma and non-asthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis (NAEB) were diagnosed in 32 (25 %) and 19 (15 %) patients, respectively. Other cough causes were found in 27 patients (21 %). Asthma was a significantly more common cause of chronic cough in women than in men (31 % vs. 3 %, p = 0.005). A reverse relationship was demonstrated for UACS (39 % vs. 67 %, p = 0.01). Patients with chronic cough aged >50 yrs were more likely to be diagnosed with less common cough causes. In conclusion, the most common chronic cough reasons are GERD and UACS. Asthma-related cough is diagnosed more frequently in females, while UACS-related cough is more frequent in males.

Keywords: Asthma; Chronic cough; Gastroesophageal reflux disease; Non-asthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis; Upper airway cough syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asthma / complications
  • Bronchitis, Chronic / complications
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / diagnosis
  • Cough / diagnostic imaging
  • Cough / etiology*
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking
  • Spirometry
  • Young Adult