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What is a Chronic Cough?

A cough is a sudden burst of air coming from your lungs up your nose or mouth. It causes your vocal folds to slam together, like when you clap your hands. If you are clearing your throat or coughing constantly, it can be very damaging to your vocal cords.

Irritation of the throat or any tubes leading to the lungs can cause the triggering of a cough. A lot of people also cough ‘on purpose’ when they feel an irritation in the throat. It is important to note that coughing can cause irritation, which can create a never ending cycle.

Coughing is one of the ways that the body protects its airway. It does this by clearing the lungs and tubes of things that could irritate the body, as well as secretions. For example, when food has been swallowed down the wrong way, coughing helps to clear the airway.

However, it is important to note that a cough is not always necessary. ‘Chronic cough’ refers to a cough that occurs due to irritation instead of something that needs to be cleared through your lungs or chest. Your body is being over-sensitive, and in this instance, continuing to cough can damage your vocal folds.

It is a common misconception that our urge to cough is under our conscious control. Scans of brains have shown that areas that control automatic functions and conscious actions are activated whilst coughing. This means that even though some coughing occurs automatically, there is still an element of deliberate (conscious) control. This explains why we are able to suppress a cough at times, and are also able to cough deliberately.

Through Speech Pathology treatment, we are able to strengthen your voluntary control of coughing. Typically, a person seeking treatment for a chronic cough may have no real cause for their cough; it may be persisting despite having had treatment for gastroesophageal reflux, asthma or rhinitis.

If you think you may struggle with a chronic cough, get in touch with one of our Speech Pathologists today! You can contact us on 4948 9800 or send an email to

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