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Dr. Andrew Rynne
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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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What causes chronic cough?

Answered by
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Dr. Michelle Gibson James

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :2001

Answered : 16681 Questions

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Posted on Tue, 22 Apr 2014 in General Health
Question: Hello there, My mum has literally had a bad cough for about a year now that tends to be more vigorous at night and so she does not sleep - It sounds like a dry chesty cough, but she produces clear flem. Over the course of the year it may subside for a few days but always returns. To give you some background information - She was diagnosed with diverticulitis a few months ago. I had noticed that if she ate certain foods (in particular chilli, tomatoes) her cough would be worse at night, more continuous. Despite the doctors telling us that there was no correlation between her cough and her diverticulitis, which we later found out had attacked her bowel and caused scarring - I thought it may have something to do with acid being build up in her body as a result of the diverticulitis, so I got her on a diet that had a bit more fibre in it and alkalising greens, which seemed to ease the cough but not get rid of it. A couple of months ago she had an operation to remove the part of the bowel that the disease has attacked, and during the course of the operation the surgeon also found a hole in the bowel which he closed. For two weeks post the operation (after almost a year of coughing) the cough had completely disappeared. It has since returned and sounds worse than before. During the course of the year she had been prescribed a number of different antibiotics which she took to completion, she was also given steroids which stopped the cough for about 3 weeks roughly. Her doctor has prescribed another set of antibiotics along with the puffer for asthma, but that doesn’t appear to be helping, in fact she coughed all of last night and all through to the morning. The doctor prescribed the puffer because he had detected a wheezing sound in her breathing, but the puffer doesn’t seem to help with the cough. I know her immune system is low, she can’t seem to handle sudden changes in the weather condition without having a coughing attack. I think she has something that has gone undiagnosed. I don’t believe it’s just a stubborn cough that will be fixed with antibiotics, it hasn’t been fixed with these to date. Any info that could be provided would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!
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Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 42 minutes later
Brief Answer: gastroesophageal reflux disease Detailed Answer: HI, thanks for using healthcare magic A chronic cough is one that lasts for 8 weeks or longer. By this definition your mother would be said to have a chronic cough. There are 3 main causes of chronic cough: (1) post nasal drip- secretions drip into the throat and trigger a cough. Up to 20% of persons with post nasal drip may actually be unaware of the drip (2) asthma (3) gastroesophageal reflux disease ( also known as GERD). The acid exposure stimulates the cough reflex. Based on the fact that you noticed the use of chilli and tomatoes caused her to cough, it is likely that she is experiencing gastroesophageal reflux. Some persons do not experience the typical burning chest pain, and only have the cough. Treatment of acid reflux involves the following: (1)avoid spicy/acidic/fatty/fried foods (2)avoid tomatoes/onions/mint/chocolate/caffeine (3)small meals frequently instead of large meals (4)weight loss if there is any excess weight because it reduces the pressure on the stomach (5)medication- such as prilosec, prevacid, nexium, protonix Diverticular disease is not normally associated with a cough though everyone is different. I hope this helps, feel free to ask any other questions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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