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Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Cough may result from multiple aetiologies:

  • acute cough
    • most common cause is viral upper respiratory tract infection (1)
    • other causes include:
      • asthma
      • pneumonia
      • acute exacerbation of a preexisting condition such as asthma, bronchiectasis, COPD
      • acute bronchitis (2)
      • serious conditions such as neoplasms, foreign body inhalation, infections (tuberculosis), anaphylaxis due to acute allergy (1)
  • subacute cough
    • usually precedes an acute upper respiratory tract infection
  • chronic cough - some causes of persistent or recurrent cough include:
    • the most common causes of chronic cough are UACS (upper airway cough syndrome) due to a variety of rhinosinus conditions, asthma, and GORD (3)
    • bronchitis:
      • viral
      • chemical e.g. smoke
      • secondary bacterial bronchitis
    • specific infections e.g. mycoplasma, pertussis, tuberculosis
    • suppurative lung disease:
      • bronchiectasis
      • cystic fibrosis
      • secondary lung collapse (foreign body)
      • Kartagener's syndrome
    • drug induced - particularly ACE inhibitors and dry cough
    • focal lesions:
      • inhaled foreign body
      • lung carcinoma
    • psychological illness
    • pulmonary oedema
    • pleural disease
    • smoking
    • tracheitis
    • vocal cord palsy


  1. Morice AH et al. Recommendations for the management of cough in adults. Thorax. 2006;61 Suppl 1:i1-24
  2. Pratter MR, et al. An empiric integrative approach to the management of cough: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2006;129(1 Suppl):222S-231S
  3. Pratter MR. Overview of common causes of chronic cough: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2006 Jan;129(1 Suppl):59S-62S. doi: 10.1378/chest.129.1_suppl.59S.

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