What is a continuous cough?

Find out 'what is a continuous cough?' in this guide, including what causes a continuous cough, potential symptoms, what to do if the cough is Covid-19 and how to get rid of one.
A cough is a reflex that helps to clear the lungs, throat and mouth of unwanted substances. Coughing can be caused by many different things, including colds, allergies, asthma and health conditions. However, when your cough doesn’t go away, it may be more than just a short-term illness. A continuous cough can be caused by a chest infection or other respiratory issues, so if you’re suffering from a chronic cough and aren’t sure whether or not to see a doctor, read on. Below, we answer questions like ‘what is a continuous cough?’ and ‘what causes a continuous cough?’.

What is a continuous cough?

If a cough persists for more than three weeks, it’s considered chronic. Chronic coughing can be the result of health conditions such as asthma or lifestyle choices like smoking. Continuous coughing can be annoying, especially if you’re sharing a bed with another person and you’re keeping them up all night, every night. Once the underlying problem has been treated, the cough usually goes away quite quickly.

What other symptoms might I have?

Sometimes, a continuous cough can be accompanied by other symptoms, including: • Sweating • A fever (temperature greater than 100F/38C), or feeling cold all the time despite high temperatures outside • A sore throat (pain when swallowing) • A runny nose, which can be clear but sometimes has white mucus patches in it • Postnasal drip (the feeling of liquid at the back of the throat) • Continuous clearing of the throat • Wheezing • Shortness of breath • Heartburn If you have a cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks, combined with any of the symptoms above, see your GP. A cough should usually clear up by itself within 3 weeks, so if it doesn’t, this could be a sign of an infection or something more serious. If left untreated, the cough could develop and cause damage to your respiratory system. Our pharmacy team have over 20 years of experience, so if you’re concerned about your cough, we’re happy to advise where we can.

What to do if you think it’s Covid-19

Get tested. If you think your cough could be Covid-19, the best first step is to take a test. Our pharmacy stocks Rapid Antigen tests as well as PCR tests that you can also use for travelling. If you do test positive, check the government guidelines to see what to do next. You can find the most current information about how to keep safe from Covid-19 here as well. You should also stay away from high-risk members of your family.

What causes a continuous cough?

A continuous cough may be caused by a variety of factors, including:


Smoking is one of the most common causes of a cough. This is because your body is clearing out the chemicals that enter the airways and lungs through tobacco use. If you smoke regularly and for many years, this cough will likely get worse over time. It can also cause a common cough, like one related to the cold or flu, to last longer than it would if you didn’t smoke. The smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco products irritates the airways and lungs, so your constant cough will likely be dry and sound like “a deep bark” or “a low rumble.” If you’re a smoker who has developed an infection, this may become chronic with time and turn into bronchitis or pneumonia. Even if it doesn’t develop into bronchitis or pneumonia, a smoker’s cough will often get progressively worse due to the irritants in cigarettes causing inflammation in the airways.


Asthma is a chronic condition of the airways, characterised by increased mucus production and inflammation. When exposed to irritants like dust, allergens and pollution, the airways of asthmatics typically become swollen or tight, which leads to them coughing in order to remove foreign particles and bacteria. Chest infections can make asthma sufferers wheezier and can even cause shortness of breath.


If you have allergies, this could be another cause of your continuous cough. Allergens like pollen aggravate the lining of the nose, causing postnasal drip, which is a watery mucus that drips from the nose down the throat. This then causes a tickle that leads to coughing. Other symptoms that may accompany a cough include a runny nose, itchy eyes and ears, a sore throat and a scratchy voice. If you suffer from hay fever, it’s a good idea to take daily antihistamines to prevent these symptoms from worsening and irritating your cough.


Bronchiectasis is a chronic lung condition where the airways become permanently damaged and enlarged. This damage can be caused by infection, injury or chronic asthma. Some of the signs of bronchiectasis include: • A cough that lasts for more than three weeks in an adult or over one month in a child. • Sputum (phlegm) is brought up when you cough • There is a wheezing or whistling noise when you breathe These symptoms can develop into something more serious very quickly, so it’s best to see your GP if you have any of these symptoms.

Order online prescriptions in Camberley, Farnborough and Frimley

If you have any further questions about your symptoms, please do not hesitate to contact us at one of our pharmacies in Camberley, Farnborough and Frimley. Order your prescription online today and collect it at a time that suits you. If you have more questions like ‘what is a continuous cough?’, we’re more than happy to answer them.
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