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A cough is your body's response to something that bothers your throat or airways. Many things can cause a cough. You might cough because of a cold or influenza (flu), bronchitis, or asthma. Smoking, post-nasal drip, allergies, and stomach acid that backs up into your throat also can cause a cough.
A cough can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). A chronic cough lasts more than 8 weeks. A chronic cough is often caused by a long-term problem, such as asthma. Another cause might be a medicine, such as an ACE inhibitor.
A cough is a symptom, not a disease. To treat a chronic cough, you may need to treat the problem that causes it. You can take a few steps at home to cough less and feel better.
Some people cough or clear their throat out of habit for no clear reason.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When you have a chronic cough or a disease that may cause this type of cough, you may often feel like you want to clear your throat. This helps bring up mucus. But throat clearing does not always have a cause.
Throat clearing can become a habit. The more you do it, the more you feel like you need to do it. But frequent throat clearing can be hard on your vocal cords. It's like slamming them together.
To help lessen throat clearing, you can try:
You may want to ask your doctor if a medicine that thins mucus would help.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Current as of: February 27, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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