Feature Article

Management of a chesty cough

Megan Howden, Rob G Stirling



Causes of cough can range from a simple viral upper respiratory tract infection causing an acute cough to lung cancer or chronic lung disease causing a chronic cough. Identifying patients at risk of more serious diagnoses is essential.

Key Points

  • Cough is the most common reason for new presentations of patients to GPs.
  • Acute cough is most commonly caused by viral infection.
  • Acute cough is usually self-limiting and does not generally require further investigation.
  • Unusual but serious causes of acute cough should be considered.
  • Pertussis should be considered as a cause of prolonged cough.
  • Chronic cough is usually due to asthma, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or postnasal drip, and sometimes these in combination.
  • A trial of treatment can help make the diagnosis.