A cough that won’t go away is a common problem that allergists see. The most common causes of chronic cough are postnasal drainage from allergy or sinusitis, asthma, chronic bronchitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease, although many other conditions can cause a persistent cough. Your primary physician may be able to diagnose the problem, but he or she may refer you to an allergist when the cough is not responding to treatment.
Role of the Allergist:
Allergists have particular expertise in allergic rhinitis (or hay fever) and sinus disease, which may contribute to postnasal drainage, a common cause of chronic cough. Allergy testing will determine whether the drip is due to allergies. Allergists are also experts at diagnosing and treating asthma, which may be present in 25% of patients with chronic cough. Cough from asthma may be associated with wheeze, shortness of breath or chest tightness and may be worsened by colds, exercise, smoke exposure and laughter, among other things. Cough can be caused by cough-variant asthma, in which case, there is no wheezing present, and the diagnosis more difficult. In some cases, a diagnostic test called a methacholine challenge can help the diagnosis.
When to see an allergist:
- If you have a cough that lasts more than eight weeks.
- If your cough is associated with symptoms of asthma.
- If your cough is associated with nasal symptoms.
- If your cough is severe and affecting your quality of life.