How to tell when is a cough more than just a cough

Having a cough can be irritating to say the least… that uncontrollable need to clear your throat and cough every

Having a cough can be irritating to say the least… that uncontrollable need to clear your throat and cough every few minutes is something many people deal with when winter rolls around and pesky colds seems to hunt us down.

But what about coughs that occur at other times of the year; coughs that aren’t caused by a common cold and could means something more serious? There are many different types of coughs, from dry to chesty to smoker’s, and they can all mean something different.

A cough can be caused by a number of different things and can last for anything from a few days (acute) to a few months (chronic). The severity of your cough will determine how you should treat it and when you should seek medical help. Many coughs can be treated with over the counter medications or remedies, but some will require professional help.

Here, we break down the different types of coughs and what they mean to you and your health.


While asthma is usually associated with wheezing and difficulty breathing, not all sufferers have those symptoms. Indeed, some asthma sufferers cough instead. The asthma cough is actually very common among sufferers with a quarter of all chronic coughs being caused by asthma. An asthma cough is normally triggered by inhaling dust or dirt and should be treated with medication prescribed by a doctor. You may also notice the cough worsening at night or when you exercise. It can cause shortness of breath, tightening chest, and fatigue.


GERD, short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a dry spasmodic cough that occurs when stomach acid makes its way into the esophagus. It’s a surprisingly common type of cough and causes 40 per cent of chronic coughs. If you have a GERD cough, you’ll often find it’s gets worse when you’re eating or lying down. Other symptoms include heartburn and hoarseness. You should see your doctor to prevent it turning into a chronic condition.


This cough is particularly prevelant in the morning and is usually a hacking cough with lots of mucus. Known as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), it can be a sign of bronchitis and emphysema. If you have this cough, you may notice it gets better later in the day as well as increase in wheezing, fatigue, and shortness of breath. This type of cough can be a sign of a lung infection and in extreme cases can result in the need for oxygen therapy. If you’re a smoker, it’s imperative that quit immediately.


There are many symptoms of pneumonia but one of the most prevalent is coughing. The cough typically starts as a dry cough before developing into a wet cough with thick mucus. Pneumonia can be life-threatening so understanding and identifying the signs are important. If you feel pain when your breathing or coughing, head to your doctor for a checkup, where they’ll usually run tests or x-rays to determine whether or not it’s viral or bacterial.

Have you ever had persistent trouble with a cough? How do you usually treat a cough?

  1. My mother had a cough, and once or twice, coughed specks of blood. She went to the doctor. He actually laughed at her. He told her that just because her husband died of cancer, she’s not likely to have it. The following year she moved to another town. One night she started coughing and kept coughing up blood, in large quantities. She had to have her lung removed. Cancer.

    • She lived another 22 years, and died at age 84. She had been a beautiful singer, and found she could still sing with only one lung. She was an amazingly tough lady.

    • It sounds like you had a wonderful mother Jean Lake. Thank you for sharing your story with us 🙂

  2. “It’s not the cough that carries you off. It’s the coffin they carry you off in.”

  3. Yes got one now after three chest infections during the winter. Must say I’m pretty much tired of it and hope it goes away soon.

  4. I had a cough for many years antibiotics, inhalers etc…. & then finally diagnosed with ‘Reflux’…,,, don’t know the trigger even after 30+ yrs but…….. the medication sorts it quickly & not needed permanently.

  5. Had a cough for several years. A tickle in the back of the throat cough. Just an annoying tickle. Then my throat started to close over. It got more serious. Ignored it. The for about 6 months my throat really really started to close over. Unable to breathe. 5 -10 seconds. Very very frightened and then the throat closed over for longer. I knew then that this was going to kill me. Asked on the off chance my Diabetes Specialist. Asked about my medication. There it was. COVERSYL. Known medication that can cause death. Went off it immediately and have not had any symptoms since. Take care with this medication. If you take Coversyl and have a tickling cough go to your Dr. And get off it.

    • I too took Coversyl and developed a bad cough. Had many tests which proved nothing. Mentioned to my doctor I had heard blood pressure meds could cause this so went off Coversyl and lost my cough in a couple of weeks.

      • Mary  

        I was on Coversyl Plus for years but was changed to Atacand about two months ago. I asked for a change because I had the cough and because my naturopath had a test done which showed Coversyl Plus caused inflammation in my body. At first I was happy with the Atacand because the coughing stopped but last week my feet were swollen and painful and I needed the diuretic in Atacand Plus. So far so good, the swelling is going down but not the excess weight I put on in the two months. I am waiting to see if the cough comes back. Has anyone had a problem with Atacand or Atacand Plus?

  6. Claire  

    I had a constant dry cough it was caused by Coversyl a blood pressure med : the minute I stopped using it the coughing stopped if I was at the chemist and heard someone with the same dry cough I’d say I’m sorry to ask but for curiosity do you take Coversyl and the answer was always yes: I would always mention to Dr but he kept prescribing it : until I said I want to change: I’ve had my thyroid removed five years ago because of suspicious nodules ? once out they where ok; I wonder if the constant dry cough could have caused the nodules ?? So if your on Coversyl and have a constant dry cough check the side effects thats one of them :((

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