A nagging cough, also referred to as a chronic cough, is coughing that lasts for more than 8 weeks and occurs frequently through the day and night. Having a nagging cough can cause sleep problems and difficulty with physical activity. It can be annoying and distracting, especially in quiet environments such as an office or library.
Allergies to pollen, dust and pet dander may irritate the throat and cause a persistent, nagging cough. Other irritants such as cigarette smoke, perfumes and hair sprays may also stimulate an allergic reaction that causes coughing. Allergies may cause the sinuses to over-produce mucus, which can drip down the throat and result in a nagging cough.
Asthma is the most common cause of a nagging cough in kids, and is common among adults with asthma as well. A nagging cough may be the only symptom of asthma in some people, while others may also have shortness of breath or wheezing. Nagging coughs caused by asthma may be worse during cold or dry weather, or after physical activity.
Bacterial, fungal and viral infections of the respiratory system may be the cause of a nagging cough. Colds, flu and respiratory syncytial virus may result in a lingering cough in children and adults. Sinus infections, whooping cough and tuberculosis are also infections that may cause a nagging cough.
Medications used to treat certain health conditions may irritate the throat and cause dryness or coughing. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors may cause a nagging cough, and are a type of drug given to people with high blood pressure. Beta blockers are another medication used for treating migraines, high blood pressure and glaucoma that can cause a nagging cough.
Acid reflux disease, also referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), may cause symptoms including heartburn and a nagging cough. Coughs caused by reflux may be worse after eating a large meal or greasy, fatty or acidic foods. Nighttime coughs caused by reflux may be persistent and cause problems with falling or staying asleep.
Chronic respiratory disorders that affect breathing passages may cause a nagging cough. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may cause a nagging cough and is a condition more common in older adults. Other respiratory disorders, including cystic fibrosis, emphysema and pleurisy, are long-term respiratory disorders that may cause persistent coughing.
The nagging cough caused by smoking tobacco is often referred to as "smoker's cough." Even after quitting smoking, former smokers may still have a nagging cough as a result of damage to the throat and lungs. People, including children, who breathe in secondhand smoke can also develop a nagging cough.