Since the COVID-19 pandemic, any cough has aroused suspicion in those around the coughing person. Coughing became one of the most apparent symptoms of a deadly illness that no one wanted to catch, especially those on oxygen therapy. However, as we move forward from that anxious time, we must accept that there are more possible causes for a cough that won’t go away in healthy people and those on oxygen therapy. Keep reading to learn more about these potential causes to determine when to visit a doctor.
Postnasal drip is when your sinuses drain from the nose down your throat, often causing a combination of congestion and coughing as you try to clear your throat. There are various causes of postnasal drip, from allergies and colds to changes in the air and certain foods. If you’re experiencing postnasal drip, you can wait for it to go away on its own or speak with your doctor.
If your postnasal drip is from an environmental factor such as an allergen you’re already aware of, a specific food you can avoid, or dry air, you can wait to speak with your doctor. These environmental factors are relatively easy to manage. However, if your postnasal drip and subsequent cough are persistent despite environmental changes, you may have an undiagnosed allergy or cold. Speak with your doctor so you can clear up the drip and cough and get back to breathing normally.
Acute or Chronic Bronchitis
Postnasal drip and a common cold can quickly develop into bronchitis if you’re not careful. As your sinuses drain down your throat, the secretions can irritate and inflame the lining of your bronchial tubes. The bronchial tubes carry oxygen to and from your lungs, so it’s necessary that you keep them as clear and healthy as possible if you want to breathe at your best.
Acute bronchitis typically lasts around a week. The cough can linger for several weeks, but the other symptoms, such as fatigue and fever, should clear up within that week. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help lessen these symptoms and prevent infection.
Chronic bronchitis occurs when acute bronchitis doesn’t clear up or quickly returns. Your bronchial tubes stay inflamed, and the cough will hang on for weeks and months. Sometimes you’ll experience other bronchitis symptoms as well, but the cough is the most obvious. Speak with your doctor if you experience these persistent symptoms, so they can create a treatment plan that prevents your cough and bronchitis from worsening.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can come from bacteria, viruses, or even fungi. Regardless of the cause, the air sacs in one or both of your lungs inflame and force you to cough. Sometimes, that inflammation pairs with fluid or pus filling the air sacs, making you cough up mucus or pus. This can make it difficult to breathe. Depending on the severity of your pneumonia, you may also experience fever and chills. Some people experience mild pneumonia, while others can end up in the hospital.
A persistent high fever, coughing up pus, and difficulty breathing are the three major symptoms you should watch for if you think you have pneumonia. These are signs that your pneumonia is severe and that you need medical intervention. However, if you’re already on oxygen therapy, you may want to speak with a medical professional as soon as possible to ensure your cough and other symptoms don’t worsen.
While slightly less common, problems with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause persistent coughing. Acid reflux and GERD occur when stomach contents flow into the esophagus. While this commonly causes heartburn, nausea, and swallowing problems, it can also dry out your throat. The swallowing problems and dry throat can cause you to develop a persistent cough as your body tries to clear your airway.
If acid reflux or GERD is causing your persistent cough, your doctor will address the acid reflux first. They will probably prescribe medications that reduce or block acid production in the stomach. Once there’s less irritating acid in your throat, you should be able to breathe better and avoid coughing. In extreme cases, your doctor may suggest surgical intervention, especially if you have GERD. Regardless of the treatment plan, addressing the acid in your throat should also address your persistent cough.
If you’re on oxygen therapy to help address your heart disease, your doctor may also have prescribed angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to help lower your blood pressure. Unfortunately, a persistent cough is a side effect of these inhibitors. Other medications for different medical conditions can also cause a persistent cough, but ACE inhibitors overlap the most with oxygen therapy users.
Your doctor decided that your current treatment plan was best for you, even if the ACE inhibitors you’re on cause a persistent cough. However, if the cough irritates you and there are other viable options, you can discuss making changes that will help you breathe easier. Just because you’re already on oxygen therapy doesn’t mean your doctor should discount any effects your medications have on your lungs and airways. If anything, your need for oxygen therapy should make them more vigilant in maintaining your lung health.
There are many possible causes for a cough that won’t go away. Postnasal drip, bronchitis, pneumonia, acid reflux, and ACE inhibitors are the most common causes that you can experience, especially if you’re using oxygen therapy. If your doctor recently prescribed oxygen therapy or you’re looking to update your oxygen equipment, Bridge to Care can help. We sell oxygen concentrator machines at various price points for people of all different medical and lifestyle needs. You can find home concentrators, portable concentrators, and even preowned concentrators that will fit your lifestyle and financial situation. Please contact us if you have any questions or need assistance in your oxygen journey.