Can't Stop Coughing: Why?

Can’t stop coughing? You have been coughing for weeks and the constant cough makes your life miserable. For example, you are not getting enough sleep due to coughing at night. When having a persistent and chronic cough, it is normal for you to get worried what it might mean. How do you know if it is just a cold or something more serious? Continue reading and learn some of the possible causes and the treatment options.

Why Can't You Stop Coughing?

There are various causes of the constant coughing, ranging from mostly a nuisance to serious ones. The most common causes are:

  • Viral Infections. Common cold or influenza might be the cause. A cough in these cases is accompanied by other symptoms like runny nose, fever, etc. 
  • Bronchitis. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which can be either acute or chronic. Both types of bronchitis are accompanied by a chronic and persistent cough. 
  • Allergies. Food allergies, environmental allergies or any other types of allergies are usually accompanied by coughing. 
  • Asthma. Asthma might be one of the reasons why you can't stop coughing. It is accompanied by a steady cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. 
  • Bronchospasm. Bronchospasm, a constriction of the airways due to asthma, allergy or other possible causes, leads to a cough. If there is also a shortness of breath and swelling of the tongue or throat, seek medical help immediately. 
  • Medications. ACE-inhibitors, medications used for the treatment of high blood pressure, may cause you to cough night and day. 
  • Acid Reflux. GERD, known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, results in constant coughing due to the back flow of the stomach acid into the esophagus. A cough due to acid reflux is usually more at nights after lying down. 
  • Smoking. Smoking is one main cause. Smokers tend to have constant coughing, usually worse in the mornings. It is a productive type of a cough. 
  • Croup. Croup, which affects children, is accompanied by a barking cough. 
  • COPD. COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is another reason why you can't stop coughing, accompanied by a shortness of breath. 
  • Exposure to Irritants. Exposure to air pollutants, dust, chemicals, wood smoke, secondhand smoke, etc., causes a constant cough. 

Less common causes of chronic and constant coughing include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Blood clots in the lungs
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Collapsed lungs
  • Lung cancer

When to See a Doctor

Every time you experience constant coughing, you should go to see the doctor. It could be due to a viral infection or bronchitis, but it could also be due to a lung cancer, tuberculosis, and other serious medical conditions. Don't underestimate your problem. Seek medical help every time you experience other signs and symptoms except coughing, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, high fever, symptoms of blood clots, etc. Make sure to seek medical help immediately in cases when your cough has a sudden onset, or you are having a swelling of your face, tongue or throat. Coughing up blood should be evaluated by your doctor.

How to Stop Constant Cough

After explaining the reasons why you can't stop coughing, here are some treatment options for your considerations.

1.    Medical Treatment

  • Cough Suppressants. They are used to block the cough reflex but will not solve your coughing problem. They will just provide you a temporary relief, especially when coughing at night. 
  • Use Cough Lozenges. Throat lozenges usually contain medicine that numbs the throat, provides a soothing effect and relieves cough as well. Cough lozenges are not recommended for children under the age of 4 years old. 

Your treatment will depend on the underlying causes of your cough. 

  • If caused by asthma – Bronchodilators and steroids are routinely prescribed. These drugs help reduce the inflammation of the airways, relieving the coughing and wheezing as well. 
  • If caused by GERD – First, you need to avoid foods that cause acid reflux, followed by avoiding eating before bedtime. Make sure to keep your head a little bit higher when you lay down. If these non-medical options don't help, medications like ranitidine, famotidine, cimetidine, are the options. These medications tend to reduce the stomach acid. 
  • If caused by bronchitis – Antibiotics are necessary in this case. 
  • If caused by bacterial pneumonia – Antibiotics are necessary, combined with bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids and measuring the temperature constantly. 
  • If caused by postnasal drip – Over-the-counter decongestants can help you relieve the coughing. If the cause is sinusitis, antibiotics might be necessary. A nasal glucocorticoid is recommended to relieve postnasal drip. 
  • If caused by ACE inhibitors – You need to switch to other medicines to treat high blood pressure. 

2.   Natural Remedies

Natural remedies might also be a good choice for you. However, before taking any natural remedies for your cough, talk to your doctor first as these natural remedies may interfere with the medications you are taking. 

  • Make sure to drink plenty of water a day and stay hydrated. 
  • Elevate your head with extra pillows during the night to help you ease a dry cough.
  • Use humidifiers to relieve a dry cough.
  • Avoid air pollutants, smoke or dust.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Gargle with warm saltwater to get rid of the excessive mucus. 
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