Chronic Cough: Evaluation and Management

Am Fam Physician. 2017 Nov 1;96(9):575-580.


Although chronic cough in adults (cough lasting longer than eight weeks) can be caused by many etiologies, four conditions account for most cases: upper airway cough syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease/laryngopharyngeal reflux disease, asthma, and nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis. Patients should be evaluated clinically (with spirometry, if indicated), and empiric treatment should be initiated. Other potential causes include angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor use, environmental triggers, tobacco use, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and obstructive sleep apnea. Chest radiography can rule out concerning infectious, inflammatory, and malignant thoracic conditions. Patients with refractory chronic cough may warrant referral to a pulmonologist or otolaryngologist in addition to a trial of gabapentin, pregabalin, and/or speech therapy. In children, cough is considered chronic if present for more than four weeks. In children six to 14 years of age, it is most commonly caused by asthma, protracted bacterial bronchitis, and upper airway cough syndrome. Evaluation should focus initially on these etiologies, with targeted treatment and monitoring for resolution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bronchitis, Chronic / complications
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / diagnosis*
  • Cough / therapy*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Medical History Taking
  • Physical Examination
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / complications
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Respiratory Function Tests