What causes you to cough?

Irritants, allergens, medical conditions, and even certain medicines can cause people to cough.1


An irritant is something that you are sensitive to.1

  • Smoking and inhaling
    second-hand smoke

  • Air pollution

  • Paint fumes

  • Scented products, such as perfumes and air fresheners


An allergen is something that you are allergic to.1

  • Dust

  • Mold

  • Pollen

  • Animal Dander

Medical conditions

What causes prolonged cough?

If your cough lasts less than 3 weeks1, it may be due to:

  • Common cold1 : a short mild illness with early symptoms of headache, sneezing, chilliness and sore throat, along with later symptoms of nasal discharge, blocked nose, cough and discomfort.5.
  • Flu1 : an illness with fever, headache, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, nasal congestion, weakness and loss of appetite5.
  • Pneumonia1 : a common lung infection caused by bacteria, virus or fungi6.
  • Whooping cough: a highly contagious respiratory infection with a high-pitched “whoop” sound7.

If your cough lasts for more than 8 weeks1, it may be caused by:

  • Dry cough cause: Postnasal drip (Upper airway cough syndrome) which appears as a dry cough caused by the chronic dripping of mucus from the back of the nose to the throat.
  • Asthma, a long-term lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways.1.
  • Acid reflux disease or stomach acid going up into the throat1.

Other diseases may also cause coughing for more than 8 weeks

  • Respiratory Infections1
  • Chronic bronchitis (or linings of the airways constantly irritated or inflamed)1
  • Lung cancer1
  • Chronic obstructive disorder (COPD), a disease that prevents enough air from flowing in and out of the airways1
  • Heart failure1

Certain medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, migraine, headache and glaucoma, can also cause chronic cough (cough for more than 8 weeks).1

The best way to treat a cough is to treat its cause. Your doctor may recommend cough medicine if the cough causes a lot of discomfort.1