Cough is the body’s response to any irritants which your airways and throat may get exposed to. Coughing helps to remove foreign material in the lungs and airways, or is a reaction to an irritated airway to help expel the irritant. 

Cough usually manifests as a symptom of an underlying disease and is not a disorder on its own. There are many reasons why a patient may be suffering from persistent coughing. Some of these are:

  • A bacterial infection in the lung, which may lead to diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, whooping cough, laryngitis or tuberculosis.

  • A viral infection, such as the common cold or even bronchiolitis.

  • Chronic lung disease.

  • Stomach acid reflux into the oesophagus.

  • Postnasal drip, whereby nasal discharge is drained down the throat, requiring the patient to constantly clear their throats.

  • Influenza.

  • Allergies may also trigger cough, such as in the case of allergic rhinitis.

Cough is also a symptom of many other serious diseases, such as lung cancer, heart diseases, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or even neuromuscular diseases such as Parkinsonism. ​

You may notice your cough as a dry cough, without the production of any phlegm or sputum. This usually occurs after a cold or after exposure to an allergen such as dust or smoke. Alternately, phlegm and mucus will also be produced with the cough. 

Occasional coughing is normal and helps the body get rid of an irritating foreign material. However, if it persists over several weeks with discharge of coloured or even bloody mucus, it should not be left unchecked and requires your immediate medical attention. You can consult a doctor working with the Family Health Service Line, at The Aga Khan University Hospital for expert advice.

Persistent or chronic cough is usually a symptom of another disorder and accompanies other symptoms associated with a particular disease, for example, in some cases coughing may be accompanied with a runny and stuffy nose. Prolonged, vigorous coughing can become very exhausting leading to sleeplessness, headaches, urinary incontinence, and even broken ribs. That’s why it is important that you do not ignore if your cough does not stop after a few weeks.​​

If you experience shortness of breath, gasping or choking along with your cough, you must seek help from your doctor working with the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. In addition, wheezing, coughing up coloured phlegm and running a fever with your cough are also signs of an underlying infection or disorder and must be assessed by a doctor. In extreme cases, if you cough up blood or pink-coloured phlegm, it indicates the need for immediate medical care.

At the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital, our internationally trained staff is dedicated to providing quality healthcare to all patients. You can be assured of receiving personalized attention and care from your doctor, and can discuss your symptoms and concerns in complete confidence for a complete treatment plan to be developed for you.​​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Taking your medical history and conducting a physical examination are the first steps towards diagnosing the underlying cause of a cough. Your doctor may be able to diagnose one of the common causes of cough based on your medical history and physical exam and start a treatment plan.

However, if the treatment plan for one of the common cause of coughing does not prove to be effective, further tests will be requested by your doctor to help identify the problem. Some of the commonly used methods for diagnosing the underlying reason for a cough are:

  • X-ray of the lungs or of the sinuses to identify any lung disease or sinus infections.

  • Non-invasive lung function tests to assess how well you can inhale and exhale and check the extent to which your lungs can hold in air.

  • CT (Computerized tomography) scans which can also help identify any infections.

  • Lab tests of a sample of your mucus.

  • In cases where diagnosis seems difficult, a special instrument may be inserted into your windpipe to check for any abnormalities. This is known as a scope test.

If your cough is the result of a serious illness, such as due to a heart disease or a lung disorder, your doctor may refer you to a doctor working with the Heart, Lung and Vascular Service Line to further look for causes of a persistent cough. You can be assured of receiving multidisciplinary care at The Aga Khan University Hospital for diagnosis and treatment of your cough​.

Investigation of the cause of cough is very important in order to initiate a treatment plan personalized to your individual case. 

Depending on your diagnosis and the severity of your cough, your medical specialist may prescribe you medications that will be focused towards countering allergies, treating bacterial infections or suppressing the cough so it doesn’t interfere with your normal everyday activities. 

Besides these, your doctor at the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital may also prescribe lifestyle changes to help reduce the frequency of occurrence of the cough in certain cases. For instance, patients who face persistent coughing due to allergies will be advised to avoid allergens that worsen their condition. Similarly, patients who are smokers will be asked to quit smoking as it can worsen lung disorders, or patients suffering from coughs due to stomach acid reflux will be asked to alter the frequency and quantity of their meals. ​

Where another serious illness is the cause of the cough, the doctor will devise a specialized treatment plan to treat the patient’s underlying disorder. As a patient at The Aga Khan University Hospital, the only internationally accredited hospital of Pakistan, you will be provided with quality healthcare in a safe and comfortable environment with your treatment plan personalized to your individual case.​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.