Board Certified Pulmonologists & Board Certified Sleep Medicine Physicians located in Joliet and New Lenox, IL


About Cough

Coughs normally pass within a few weeks, so if yours won’t go away, there could be a problem with your respiratory system. For expert help with chronic coughs, visit Midwest Respiratory, Ltd. in Joliet or New Lenox, Illinois. The highly skilled pulmonologists specialize in diagnosing chronic coughs and recommending the most effective treatments. Call your nearest Midwest Respiratory, Ltd. office to book a diagnostic evaluation for your cough or schedule a consultation using the online booking feature.

Cough Q & A

What makes me cough?

Coughing is an automatic response to throat or airway irritation. Inhaling dust, smoke, fumes, or food particles triggers coughing to expel the irritant. Coughs are also common with acute respiratory tract infections like the flu, COVID-19, and colds.

Some coughs are dry and tickly, while others are productive. Productive coughs cause a rattling sound as phlegm (thick, discolored mucus) shifts in your airways.

Most coughs are acute and clear up in two weeks or less. Chronic coughs persist for many weeks or months and could signify an underlying respiratory system problem.

What causes chronic coughs?

Common chronic cough causes include:


Rhinitis (nasal passage inflammation) may be allergic (hay fever) or nonallergic. Both types can cause a chronic cough.

Postnasal drip

Postnasal drip (upper airway cough syndrome) is where nasal mucus continually leaks down the back of your throat. Allergies and sinusitis are the likeliest causes.


Asthma develops because of chronic airway inflammation. It causes attacks where it’s difficult to breathe; coughing and wheezing are common symptoms. Cough-variant asthma’s only symptom is a dry cough.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD conditions include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These diseases cause airway inflammation and mucus production that make breathing difficult.

Neurogenic cough

A neurogenic or sensory neuropathic cough results from nerve damage.

Lung cancer

Cancerous tumors in the lungs can cause a chronic cough.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD is a common cause of cough.  Cough may be the only symptom of this disease, and can be frequently present even in absence of other common symptoms such as heartburn or indigestion. 

How is the cause of a cough determined?

To determine your cough’s cause, your Midwest Respiratory, Ltd. provider completes a thorough physical exam, medical history review, and symptom analysis. You’ll likely need to undergo one or more diagnostic procedures, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Mucus or phlegm sample analysis
  • X-rays
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Lung function tests like spirometry
  • Bronchoscopy or rhinoscopy

Bronchoscopy uses a thin, flexible tube (bronchoscope) with a light and camera that goes into your airways and lungs. Your provider views the images on a screen, identifying abnormalities and taking biopsies (tissue samples) for lab testing.

What treatment does a lingering cough require?

The treatment Midwest Respiratory, Ltd. recommends for a cough depends on its cause. Options include:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Oral or inhaled steroids (anti-inflammatories)
  • Theophylline or leukotriene modifiers
  • Biologics 
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots)
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Bronchial thermoplasty
  • Gabapentin (for neurogenic coughs)
  • Proton pump inhibitors or other GERD medications 

Your provider designs a personalized treatment plan suited to your specific needs.

Call Midwest Respiratory, Ltd. to discuss your problematic cough or arrange a consultation online today.