Cough is the most common presenting symptom in primary practice.  Subacute cough is defined as cough persisting for 3 to 8 weeks, and chronic cough as that persisting for more than 8 weeks.  Subacute cough is most often self-limited, but chronic cough may provide significant challenges for effective evaluation and management. Nontargeted cough suppressant therapy is rarely effective for chronic cough. However, the difficulty is in determining the cause of cough, because some "etiologies" are syndromes without accurate diagnostic tests. The cause is determined instead by typical historical features, elimination of alternative causes, and response to targeted therapies (therapeutic trials serve as tests). Nonetheless, a careful history, along with selected therapeutic trials and/or diagnostic evaluations performed in a systematic and informed way, may satisfactorily resolve cough in over 90% of cases.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine
University of Chicago
Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
North Shore University Health System
TJK declares that he has no competing interests.
Dr Tomasz J. Kuzniar would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Timothy I. Morgenthaler, a previous contributor to this topic. TIM declares that he has no competing interests.
Director of Research
Family and Community Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago
NL declares that she has no competing interests.
Consultant Chest Physician
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
GC declares that he has no competing interests.
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