When to Seek Treatment for a Chronic Cough

Everyone coughs on occasion. But when a cough is persistent, lasting two months or more, it's time to see a specialist. Here to tell us more is Jonathan Bock, MD, otolaryngologist and vocal health specialist with the Froedtert & MCW health network.

What are the causes of chronic cough?

Chronic cough can be a very complex issue for patients. It can be caused by a variety of problems and conditions. Many patients who seek treatment for persistent cough may have some kind of underlying lung issue. Other conditions such as sinusitis, postnasal drip, allergies, reflux and neurological issues can also be factors related to chronic cough. Even behavioral issues such as vocal abuse and chronic throat clearing can contribute to chronic throat problems.

When is it time to seek treatment?

When your cough is severe and debilitating enough to interfere with your everyday activities, we suggest a visit to your primary care specialist. Some patients we see in our specialty clinic often have been coughing for at least two months or more. If it gets to that long of duration, it warrants an evaluation by a specialist in our Vocal Health Program.

How does the vocal health team treat chronic cough?

Many patients come to us when they are unable to get to the root cause of their cough. This is simply because there are so many different factors that can contribute to a cough and the cause may even be multifactorial. We use our multidisciplinary care team to evaluate each patient in a team model. This means we seek assessment by pulmonary, allergy, gastroenterology and neurology specialists, as well as the vocal health team. We can then find an answer together to help the patient suffering from chronic cough.

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