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Cough assessment questionnaire
Cough - General Advice for Patients
Cough is common as part of a respiratory infection but cough going on for eight weeks or more is less common and often leads to referral for specialist help. Doctors and health professionals think of the following possibilities when a cough has developed either following an upper respiratory infection or spontaneously and continues for this time. The causes that are considered include the following:
• Airways irritated by the environment and a patient whose airways are by nature ‘sensitive’
• Persistent nasal problems with post nasal drip
• Heartburn with reflux of acid precipitating cough (reflux of stomach acid into the throat with or
• Some form of lung disease (therefore chest x-ray required)
• Cough caused by certain drugs, including ACE inhibitors for heart and blood pressure, beta
blockers for heart and blood pressure and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, e.g. Brufen and Voltarol given for pain
You will probably be asked to have one or two different tests and given treatment to try and treat
one of these causes. You will also be given some general advice which is outlined in the section
below. Taking sensible advice such as this can resolve the cough in its own right. If you are a
smoker then stopping smoking can often resolve the cough completely but just because you are a
smoker does not mean that you should not be investigated for a new cough to ensure there is no
important cause. Why do we cough?
We cough in order to protect the airway from potential threats. When the cough sensors in the lining of the throat are triggered two things happen in quick succession: the vocal cords are struck together and then air is forcefully expelled from the lungs. This process is often repeated in an effort to clear the airway.
Why does it become a chronic problem?
Excessive coughing causes the lining of the airways to become irritated and inflamed which can in
turn cause further coughing so “the more you cough, the more you cough”.
What can I do to help myself?
• Breathe more through your nose than your mouth, this stops dry air hitting the back of you
• Keep your throat hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout the day. • Treat acid reflux or heartburn using lifestyle changes (see separate handout) and/or
• Be aware of things that trigger your cough (stress, speaking very fast, airborne irritants such
as cleaning sprays and aerosols etc) and try to reduce or avoid them.
• Avoid excessive coughing by stopping it before it starts. Notice the sensation in your throat
just before you cough. Try covering your mouth with your hand then stop and hold your breath for a few moments and swallow.
If the above advice does not help your symptoms please speak to your Doctor
and they may refer you to Speech and Language Therapy or Physiotherapy
(depending on the pattern of your symptoms) for further help.
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