Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Education

10 minute consultation: Chronic cough

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.030356 (Published 01 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:030356
  1. Robert D Gray, clinical lecturer1,
  2. John McKay, honorary clinical senior lecturer2,
  3. Graeme P Currie, clinical research fellow3
  1. 1Asthma and Allergy Research Group, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 9SY
  2. 2Department of Postgraduate Medicine (General Practice), University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 9LX
  3. 3Asthma and Allergy Research Group, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 9SY

Graeme Currie and John McKay take you through a common consultation in primary care--patients with chronic cough

A 42 year old woman presents with an eight month history of non-productive chronic cough. Her general health is good other than hypertension. She finds social situations embarrassing and is fed up as the cough causes urinary incontinence and disrupts her sleep.

What issues you should cover

  • Chronic cough has been defined as lasting more than two months.

  • Take a history to elucidate the cause of the cough. In particular, ask about symptoms of asthma (including any occupational association) and symptoms of postnasal drip, such as repeated throat clearing, nasal discharge, or excessive production of phlegm. Ask specifically about heartburn and regurgitation.

  • Does the patient smoke?

  • Has the patient been prescribed an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor?

  • Look out for worrying features associated with the cough …

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