Is It Normal To Have a Cough for Over 30 Days?


*Dr. Elizabeth Cilenti contributed to Emily Laurence’s article, published on February 9, 2024

Is It Normal To Have a Cough for Over 30 Days?

Can’t stop coughing? Here’s what to do, according to doctors.

Even if it’s not accompanied by other symptoms, battling an ongoing cough can be annoying. Whether you’re coughing constantly or just intermittently, it’s natural to wonder if experiencing an ongoing cough could be an indication of a bigger health problem. Is it normal to cough sporadically throughout the day for longer than a month?

In short, it’s not. Here, doctors explain what can cause coughing to last, how to treat it and why it’s always worth seeing a doctor about.

A Chronic Cough Vs. a Lingering Cough

Dr. Michael Weiner, DO, MSM, MSIST, the Chief Medical Officer for Michigan State University Health Care, says that anyone who has been experiencing a cough for three weeks or longer should see a doctor. He adds that it’s especially important to see a doctor if coughing is accompanied by other symptoms including a fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, blood in the sputum, unexplained weight loss or night sweats. If your coughing is getting worse, Dr. Weiner says that’s another time to see a doctor. “These symptoms often indicate a more serious underlying condition that will often require medical evaluation,” he explains.

There are two types of coughs that can last longer than three weeks: a lingering cough and a chronic cough. Dying to Save You author Dr. William Queale, MD, MS, MHS, explains that a lingering cough is typically caused by an unresolved upper respiratory infection, virus or flare-up of an underlying health condition—such as lung disease or asthma.

He says that a lingering cough lasts from between three to eight weeks. “The most common cause of a subacute cough—a cough that just doesn’t seem to go away for three to even up to eight weeks—is post-infectious. This cough begins during a viral respiratory infection and lingers for several weeks even after all the other symptoms have resolved,” adds Dr. Elizabeth Cilenti, MD, MPH, a family medicine physician at Northern Virginia Family Practice Associates.

Dr. Queale and Dr. Cilenti explain that a chronic cough lasts longer than eight weeks. “A chronic cough is a cough that’s present for more than eight weeks and the most common causes are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD and upper airway cough syndrome, which is usually due to postnasal drip. However, other more serious conditions can cause chronic coughs, such as pneumonia, lung cancers and other inflammatory conditions of the lung like interstitial lung disease,” Dr. Cilenti says.

How To (Finally) Stop Coughing

It bears repeating that if you have been coughing for three weeks or longer, it’s important to see a doctor. Since there are many reasons for a long-lasting cough, a doctor can help figure out what’s causing it and recommend a treatment that’s specific to you.

All three doctors say that there are things you can do to reduce any type of coughing. The first is not to smoke or vape, which Dr. Weiner says can cause coughing. He adds that being around other people who smoke, air pollution, dust, mold and occupational irritants like chemicals, dust or fumes can all make coughing worse. So if you are battling a chronic cough, removing these culprits from your environment as much as possible can help.

Dr. Weiner says that other ways to reduce coughing include using a humidifier to add moisture to the air (which reduces airway irritation), staying hydrated to thin mucus and using air purifiers to reduce indoor air pollutants.

In addition to taking these actions, it’s important to treat the underlying reason for the cough, which is another reason why it’s important to see a doctor if your cough won’t go away. For example, if asthma is the cause of coughing, it’s important to find ways to successfully manage it. Dr. Queale says that the same is true if the cause of one’s coughing is acid reflux; treating the acid reflux will make the cough go away.

When it comes to a lingering cough, Dr. Queale and Dr. Cilenti both say it will eventually go away on its own. Until it does, Dr. Cilenti recommends using cough syrup to help get enough sleep (which can be tough to do when you can’t stop coughing).

It’s clear that there are many reasons why a cough may stick around. Seeing a doctor as well as removing anything that can irritate the lungs from your environment is a great place to start in terms of treating a cough. With time and the help of a healthcare provider, you’ll be able to breathe easier.


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