Investigations and management of chronic cough: A 2020 update from the ERS Chronic Cough Task Force

Mohammed A. M. Farooqi, Vicky Cheng, Mustafaa Wahab, Izza Shahid, Paul M. O’Byrne, Imran Satia

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A PDF of the full version of the article can be accessed free of charge through the website of Polish Archives of Internal Medicine.


Chronic cough affects approximately 10% of the general population, is highest amongst people aged 50 to 60 years, and is twice as common in women than men. It is described to last 8 weeks or longer in adults and does not respond well to treatment with over-the-counter medications and those targeting potential associated conditions. This is a debilitating condition with physical, social, and psychological consequences.

The purpose of this review was to highlight the key messages on the management of chronic cough from the task force commissioned by the European Respiratory Society. The assessment of patients with chronic cough should include a thorough detailed history and examination to identify potential causes. The impact and severity can be assessed in a clinic using questionnaires. Potential causes of the condition vary and include, for example, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, smoking, asthma, nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and upper airways cough syndrome.

In many patients, coughing is persistent despite optimum medical therapy of the underlying medical condition and is hence referred to as refractory chronic cough. In some cases, no cause can be found and the cough is classified as unexplained chronic cough. If treatment of any underlying disease is unsuccessful at controlling cough, then neuromodulatory treatment such as a low-dose opioid, gabapentin, pregabalin, or speech and language therapy may be considered. There is no licensed treatment for chronic cough, but a new class of treatment targeting the purinergic P2X3 receptor is currently in phase 2 and 3 of development.

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