Chronic Cough, Acute Cough, and Night Cough

Cough is an extremely common symptom that mostly suggests a respiratory tract problem. Based on various standards, it can be divided into multiple categories. For instance, cough can be classified as acute cough or chronic cough based on the duration of the cough. The cough can be mild or excessive. The cough can also occur anytime throughout the day or predominantly at night. Here we’ll talk about some common coughs.

Chronic cough

There are no criteria for how long it is required to be chronic. Generally, if your cough persists for more than 3 months, it is considered chronic.


There are many causes for chronic cough. Some common causes include:

Acute cough

In general, acute cough means that the cough appears suddenly. It is generally caused by:

Night cough

Night cough means that the cough predominantly occurs at night. Among the 3 types of cough, night cough is the lease common one. The following are some possible causes:

  • Heart failure: Acute presentation of chronic heart failure frequently occurs at night. The cough may be relieved if the patient gets up or sits at the bedside.
  • Asthma: Asthma tends to have acute presentation at night.
  • Post-nasal drip: In this disease, the mucus drips from your nose down to your throat. When you lie down, the mucus will be drained to your throat.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease: In this condition, the acid in your stomach is regurgitated into your esophagus or even your throat and bronchus, especially when you lie down.
  • Whooping cough: This is a severe hacking cough that ends with a whooping sound when you breathe in. It is uncommon now due to widespread immunizations.


The most challenging work for a pulmonologist is to find out the underlying cause for the cough. Some of the conditions can be simply diagnosed according to your medical history, such as asthma and COPD. In addition to medical history, your doctor may also order ancillary tests.

For instance, high-resolution lung CT scans would clearly show your lungs and help determine whether your cough is associated with a lung problem—emphysema, pneumonia, tuberculosis, pneumonia, bronchiectasis, etc..

If your doctor suspects that your cough is a cough-variant asthma, bronchoprovocation test can be performed to confirm this diagnosis.

On the other hand, if your doctor suspects that gastroesophageal reflux is the cause, 24-hour PH study may be ordered.


The specific treatment for cough depends on the cause. Quitting smoking is recommended for almost all lung conditions, though.

Generally, these methods could be used:

  • No treatment: In general, you do not need specific treatment for a cough that is caused by a common cold or acute bronchitis.
  • Antibiotics: If the cause for your cough is pneumonia, whooping cough, or bronchiectasis, oral or intravenous antibiotics will be very helpful and effective to cure the cough. If you have acute exacerbation of COPD, it can also be treated with antibiotics.
  • Anti-TB drugs: If tuberculosis is causing your cough, then treatment with TB medications such as isoniazid, rifampin and ethambutol is helpful to cure tuberculosis.
  • Proton-pump inhibitors: This category of medications includes omeprazole, pantoprazole, lansoprazole, esomeprazole, etc… These drugs inhibit your gastric acid production and are very effective for treating cough caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • Surgery: If your cough is caused by lung cancer and you are a candidate for surgery, surgical resection of the tumor is frequently the first-line treatment.
* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.