While an occasional cough is normal, a cough that persists may be a sign of a medical problem.

A cough is considered “acute” if it lasts less than three weeks. It is considered “chronic” if it lasts longer than eight weeks (four weeks in children).

Some causes of coughs include:

Common causes — acute

  1. Common cold
  2. Influenza (flu)
  3. Inhaling an irritant (such as smoke, dust, chemicals or a foreign body)
  4. Pneumonia
  5. Whooping cough

Common causes — chronic

  1. Allergies
  2. Asthma (most common in children)
  3. Bronchitis
  4. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  5. Postnasal drip


  1. Acute sinusitis (nasal and sinus infection)
  2. Bronchiectasis (a chronic lung condition in which abnormal widening of bronchial tubes inhibits mucus clearing)
  3. Bronchiolitis (especially in young children)
  4. Choking: First aid (especially in children)
  5. Chronic sinusitis
  6. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) worsening of symptoms
  7. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  8. Croup (especially in young children)
  9. Cystic fibrosis
  10. Emphysema
  11. Heart failure
  12. Laryngitis
  13. Lung cancer
  14. Medications called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  15. Neuromuscular diseases that weaken the coordination of upper airway and swallowing muscles
  16. Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in an artery in the lung)
  17. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — especially in young children
  18. Sarcoidosis (collections of inflammatory cells in the body)
  19. Tuberculosis

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