Updated 23 July 2018

Risk factors for chronic cough

There are five important risk factors for chronic cough that all of us should take note of.

Take note of the following risk factors for chronic cough:

  • Smoking: The foreign substances in tobacco smoke can lead to a “smoker’s cough” – a result of the airways constantly trying to clear itself of chemicals. Heavy smokers often develop chronic bronchitis after 40 years of age.
  • Asthma and/or allergies: Allergies can lead to swelling of the airways, post-nasal drip and resultant coughing. Poorly controlled asthma is another risk factor for chronic cough. In some people, asthma presents mostly as a cough (without the characteristic laboured breathing).
  • Irritants in the home or work environment: Exposure to dust, pollen, pet dander, chemicals, industrial pollution and other irritants can all increase the risk for chronic cough. 
  • Chronic lung disease: Conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis cause persistent irritation and inflammation in the airways, leading to chronic cough.
  • Gender: Women have a more sensitive cough reflex, increasing their risk for developing a chronic cough.
  • Obesity: A link between obesity and chronic respiratory diseases is increasingly being recognised. Obesity can also increase one’s risk for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), which could lead to chronic coughing.

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. February 2018.


Ask the Expert

Cough Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules