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Chronic Cough

Coughing? Hacking? Throat Clearing? 

Vegas Voice Institute 2022

Are you someone who suffers from a chronic cough? Chronic cough is an epidemic that has been sweeping the nation and is often overlooked, misdiagnosed, or ignored.  

Chronic cough is defined as any cough that lasts longer than 4-8 weeks. It can stem from your lungs, digestive, or neurogenic causes. You may end up seeing several different specialists before you end up in front of a speech pathologist, including your primary care physician, a pulmonologist, a gastroenterologist, or an otolaryngologist. 

Why is it that it takes so many people to figure out what’s causing this cough? Well, first off, there could be many reasons, which is why it’s important to have an evaluation with a pulmonologist to rule out any disease of the lungs. Second, it often involves more than one of your body’s systems, which means your team of doctors and health professionals need to work together to help you solve the problem. But for a lot of people, the cause could be silent reflux otherwise known as, airway reflux. It is estimated that 125 million Americans suffer from reflux and that half of them don’t even know they have it. A study done in 2010 with 656 American citizens showed that as high as 40% of them had reflux, with about half of this 40% having silent reflux. 

Silent reflux is when contents from the stomach travel from the stomach back into the airway (throat), but we don’t feel the typical sensations of reflux, such as burning, heartburn, or indigestion. Some symptoms you may feel are throat clearing, mucous in the throat, feeling of something “stuck in the throat”, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and/or coughing, especially at night, when you lay down, when you’re eating, or when you bend over. 

Although some medications help reduce the acidity in the stomach, it doesn’t always reduce physical reflux from occurring. Stomach contents may still travel up into the airway and any change in acidity in the throat can affect you in different ways from coughing to hoarseness. Therefore, it is important for your team of professionals to work together so that you can address all of the reasons the reflux is occurring. 

You may end up wanting to see a speech pathologist. A speech pathologist can help you with cough suppression techniques and strategies to decrease your coughing and throat clearing. You may have a stroboscopy exam with a speech pathologist where she examines your vocal folds with a high-definition camera. Therapy may consist of exercises to stretch your vocal folds and decrease tension, education on vocal hygiene to decrease negative effects of reflux on your vocal folds, and cough suppression techniques with breathing exercises.  If you’re wondering if you should see a speech pathologist for your voice or cough, try asking your primary care physician or your ear, nose, and throat doctor for a referral to a speech pathologist. Or try giving us a call and we’ll try to guide you in the right direction. Here at Vegas Voice Institute, we treat patients with these symptoms often. It is not uncommon, and you don’t have to spend the rest of your life hacking away. Let’s do something about that cough!

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