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UR Medicine


Chronic Cough

Chronic cough is defined as a cough that lasts greater than 8 weeks; it may persist even with medical treatment.

What are the triggers for chronic cough? 

  • Strong odors
  • Particulate matter
  • Volatile compounds
  • Temperature changes
  • Speaking
  • Eating / drinking
  • Change in position (i.e., lying down)
  • Allergies

Impacts of Chronic Cough

  • The negative side effects of chronic cough include: vocal fold trauma, exacerbation of irritation in the larynx (voicebox) and perpetuation of the cough cycle
  • Continuous coughing reduces the cough threshold and sensitizes the cough so that it is triggered by smaller and smaller amounts of stimuli. Consciously suppressing the cough changes the sensitivity of cough receptors and desensitizes the cough reflex, thereby raising the cough threshold and reducing the cough sensitivity.
  • For individuals with your diagnosis, inhibiting a cough is not detrimental, and you can learn to suppress the cough even in situations where there is a sensation of needing to cough or clear phlegm.  The cough remains an important tool to clear the airway, and shouldn’t be suppressed, if you are sick, or if you feel like you are choking.

Speech-Language Pathology Evaluation & Treatment

Our Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP), have specialty training and expertise hypersensitive larynx and chronic coughing.  The SLP complete a personalized assessment of your coughing, breathing and voice.  Assessment will include:

  • A detailed history collection
  • Laryngeal Function Studies consisting of computerized voice analysis and airway measures
  • Behavioral voice and communication analysis (as needed)
  • Education and trials of cough suppression strategies

Laryngeal Hygiene

Our SLPs can help with chronic coughing by teaching an individual how to suppress their cough, and maximize laryngeal health and hygiene.

  • Maximize systemic hydration (at least 48-60 oz of water per day).  Keep water with you at all times.
  • Implement surface hydration (steam inhalation, humidification)
  • Avoid smoking and passive exposure to smoke
  • Minimize consumption of substances with a drying effect on the larynx, including: alcohol, caffeine, medicated cough lozenges
  • Implement diet and lifestyle modifications to reduce laryngopharyngeal reflux and gastroesophageal reflux
  • Attend voice therapy, if prescribed, to learn good vocal technique to reduce irritation of the larynx from poor speaking techniques. 
  • Use of nose rather than mouth breathing to increase ambient humidity when possible