Updated 23 July 2018

What is chronic cough?

A chronic cough lasts longer than two months and can be effectively treated in the majority of cases.

A chronic cough is defined as a cough that lasts longer than two months. 

In the South African context, it’s especially important to seek medical advice if you’ve been coughing for more than two weeks and you’re also experiencing fever and/or weight loss.

Although this isn’t a true chronic cough by its definition, tuberculosis (TB) could be a possible cause. Fortunately, TB can be easily treated once the diagnosis has been made.

Having a chronic cough can be very irritating and isn’t always easily treated, resulting in much frustration for patient and doctor alike.

However, with a thorough and detailed medical history, a physical examination and a systematic treatment approach, a chronic cough can be effectively treated in the majority of cases.

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.


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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.

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