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I’m Not Sick, Why Am I Coughing So Much?

Sometimes, coughing is a good thing. A cough is a natural reflex that expels air from your airways, helping to clear out germs, mucus, and other unwanted irritants. Coughing is also a common symptom of many illnesses, such as colds, the flu, and COVID-19. However, you shouldn’t always associate a cough with being sick.

There are many reasons why you could have a cough that doesn’t go away. A persistent cough that lasts more than a few weeks – with or without additional symptoms – is one of the most common reasons why people visit a healthcare provider (accounting for an estimated 30 million visits each year.)

If you don’t feel sick but can’t stop coughing, you may be tempted to ignore your symptoms. However, ignoring a nagging cough could potentially put your health at risk. Read on to learn common causes of a lingering cough and what to do if you have a cough that won’t go away.

1. Allergies

Coughing is a frequent symptom of allergies, along with itchy, watery eyes, and a runny nose. If you have chronic allergies, you may end up with a chronic cough as well.

Common triggers for allergies include dust, mold, pollen, and pet dander. If your coughing magically stops when you spend the day indoors or away from furry friends, it’s likely that you have allergies.

Allergy-related coughs should go away once your airways are clear and you’re no longer in contact with the allergen in question (such as when pollen season ends). However, coughing could last indefinitely if the allergen remains in your home or environment year-round.

2. Asthma

Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and become inflamed in response to certain triggers, such as allergens, cold air, exercise, fragrances, smoke, or other irritants. Asthma often begins during childhood, but adults can develop asthma as well.

Common symptoms of asthma include wheezing, difficulty breathing, and tightness in the chest. For some, coughing is the only symptom – a condition known as cough-variant asthma. This type of asthma often produces a persistent dry cough that begins at night but may continue around the clock.


Coughing is one of the most reported symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a term that covers two primary conditions – bronchitis and emphysema.

Acute and chronic bronchitis can both cause you to cough constantly, while chronic bronchitis typically produces phlegm as well. Emphysema is a more advanced form of COPD that also features a chronic, phlegm-filled cough. Other symptoms of COPD may include wheezing, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

COPD is usually caused by smoking, secondhand smoke, or other lung irritants. COPD gradually increases over time, making breathing more difficult.

4. Acid reflux (GERD)

The main symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acids flow backward into your esophagus from your stomach – is heartburn.

People are often shocked to learn that GERD can cause coughing without any heartburn. But when the stomach acids irritate nerves in your esophagus, these nerves can trigger your cough reflex – even without any signal of pain. In fact, up to one-third of GERD patients have no pain, just a persistent cough or sore throat. Coughing may also be a natural reflex to help prevent stomach acids from entering your lungs.

5. Post-viral cough

Viral illnesses, such as colds, the flu, or upper respiratory infections, often cause coughing. But they are usually accompanied by other symptoms as well, such as a sore throat, stuffy nose, or fever – a telltale sign that a viral infection is to blame.

However, a cough can outlast all these other symptoms, especially if your airways are still sensitive or inflamed. A cough that persists after a viral illness is called a post-viral cough.

Coughing is also one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, along with fever, shortness of breath, and loss of taste or smell. For some, the “COVID cough” lasts for several weeks or months after the initial infection – a condition known as long COVID.

6. Air pollution

Many pollutants in the air, including cigarette smoke, can irritate your lungs and cause persistent coughing. Chronic smoking is a leading risk factor for developing a chronic cough. Even short-term exposure to fumes (such as diesel exhaust) may be damaging.

7. ACE inhibitors

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors – medications used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure – also cause a persistent dry cough. The reason why is not yet understood, but an estimated one of every five patients taking ACE inhibitors discontinues their use due to side effects.

You should never stop taking prescribed medication without consulting a healthcare professional.

When to seek medical care for coughing

Don’t ignore a persistent cough – but don’t panic if your cough lingers for a little while.

If you have a mild cough that lasts 3–4 weeks, seek medical care. A cough that lasts for eight weeks or longer is considered a chronic cough and could be a sign of a more significant underlying disease process like congestive heart failure, lung cancer, or pulmonary fibrosis.

You should also seek care if:

  • Your cough keeps coming back
  • You have a persistent cough with no other symptoms

If your cough is accompanied by any of these symptoms, seek care immediately:

  • Bloody phlegm
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the face or tongue
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

Let vybe handle your cough concerns

Can’t stop coughing? We’re here to help!

Our clinicians can diagnose and evaluate your cough, provide treatment, or refer you to a specialist. We can also:

  • Diagnose and treat respiratory illnesses such as colds, sinus infections, bronchitis, and COVID-19
  • Help relieve allergy and asthma symptoms
  • Provide specialist referrals for GERD, COPD, and other conditions

All vybe clinics have licensed medical professionals with a wide range of healthcare knowledge. Walk in or schedule an appointment at your local vybe urgent care today.