Causes of coughing

It’s important to distinguish the non-life-threatening cough, such as that caused by a common viral cold, from one caused by tuberculosis or lung cancer. This isn’t always that easy in the first instance, but most “dangerous coughs” last longer than a few weeks (although both types might be equally severe in the acute stage).

Duration
Generally, coughs are divided into groups according to duration. This helps sort out the self-limiting from the chronic causes. But it’s important to recognise that every cough has to start at some point – even a cough caused by a cancer will, in the beginning, only have been there a short while.

  • Acute cough: coughing for less than three weeks
  • Sub-acute cough: cough lasting between three and eight weeks
  • Chronic cough: coughing for more than eight weeks

Cough has numerous causes. It should be reviewed by a healthcare practitioner if it doesn’t clear up by itself within a couple of days, if the cough is productive of blood, or if it’s associated with severe chest pains, for example.

Read more:
Risk factors

Reviewed by Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, Head of the Lung Clinical Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. MBChB, MRCP(UK), Dip HIV(Man), MMED, FCP(SA), Cert Pulm(SA), PhD. February 2018.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
32% - 9426 votes
No
68% - 19889 votes
Vote