has an array of possible causes, ranging from a foreign body lodged in the
airways to an infective cause and even lung cancer.
It’s important to
distinguish the non-life-threatening cough, such as that caused by a common viral
cold, from one caused by tuberculosis or lung cancer.
This isn’t always that
easy in the first instance, but most “dangerous coughs” last longer than a few weeks
(although both types might be equally severe in the acute stage).
Generally, coughs are divided into groups according to duration. This helps
sort out the self-limiting from the chronic causes. But it’s important to
recognise that every cough has to start at some point – even a cough caused by
a cancer will, in the beginning, only have been there a short while.
cough: coughing for less than three weeks
cough: cough lasting between three and eight weeks
cough: coughing for more than eight weeks
Cough has numerous causes. It should be reviewed by a healthcare
practitioner if it doesn’t clear up by itself within a couple of days, if the
cough is productive of blood, or if it’s associated with severe chest pains,
Reviewed by Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, Head of the Lung Clinical Research Unit
at the University of Cape Town. MBChB, MRCP(UK), Dip HIV(Man), MMED,
FCP(SA), Cert Pulm(SA), PhD.