A lingering cough can result from many conditions, including bronchitis or chronic allergies. Some medications and natural remedies, such as drinking tea with honey, may help.

When you’re sick or your lungs have become irritated, your body reacts by coughing. This is your body’s defense mechanism to clear out any mucus, allergens, or pollutants so that you don’t keep breathing them in.

Read on to learn about why a cough can linger and what you can do to feel better.

Coughing is usually nothing to be concerned about. When a cough is a cold symptom, it tends to clear up on its own within 3 weeks.

A lingering or chronic cough not brought on by a recent cold can indicate a more serious condition. Coughs that last longer than 8 weeks for adults or 2 weeks for children are considered chronic.

The duration of a cough can vary significantly, but longer coughs may be more common than you realize.

A cough can clear up in as few as 2 or 3 days, but one study found that the median duration of a cough caused by an illness is about 9 to 11 days.

Conditions such as chronic lung disease or asthma can increase the average duration of a cough symptom. A cough can be the last symptom to resolve when you’re recovering from a cold or flu.

Certain types of coughs can last longer than the coughing you may experience with the common cold. Here are a few possible causes of a lingering cough.


Bronchitis is a type of infection that causes the airways of the lungs, known as the bronchi, to become irritated and inflamed.

This can cause a hacking cough, which may also bring up clear, green, or yellow-gray mucus. It can also cause symptoms similar to a common cold, including a sore throat, runny nose, or headache.

Risk factors, such as smoking and exposure to fumes, chemicals, or pollutants, can make you more likely to develop chronic bronchitis, which can lead to a chronic cough.


Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria.

Coughing is a common symptom of pneumonia and may be dry or produce green, yellow, or bloody mucus. Other possible symptoms include fever, sweating, and shortness of breath.


Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways, causing them to become swollen and inflamed. It also makes the lungs more likely to be affected by irritants or allergens, which can lead to coughing.

In some cases, a chronic cough may be the only symptom of asthma. This is known as cough variant asthma. It usually requires taking prescription asthma medications, such as an inhaler, to experience relief from the cough.


Allergies can cause the airways to become irritated, resulting in a chronic dry cough.

Allergy-related coughing may be worse in certain seasons or environments. It may also accompany other symptoms such as sneezing, congestion, and itchy skin.

Acid reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux, occurs when the stomach contents flow back into the esophagus, leading to heartburn, nausea, and difficulty swallowing.

This condition can also create a prolonged irritation in your throat, resulting in an ongoing cough.

Certain medications

Certain types of medications, including blood pressure drugs, can carry a side effect of persistent coughing.


Smoking can irritate the throat, resulting in a chronic cough. It can also worsen or prolong symptoms of many issues that cause coughing, including asthma and respiratory infections.

Additionally, exposure to secondhand smoke can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that blocks airflow and can cause difficulty breathing. Smoking, exposure to air pollutants, and genetic factors are thought to be involved in its development.

Frequent coughing is one of the most common symptoms of COPD, along with wheezing, excess mucus production, and shortness of breath.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer can cause coughing that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time. Some people may also experience chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, or unintentional weight loss, while others may not notice any symptoms until the cancer is advanced.

If your only symptom is a lingering cough and you feel otherwise healthy, keep an eye on how long it lasts. Any cough that lasts longer than 8 weeks is a reason to contact a doctor or healthcare professional.

Schedule an appointment with a doctor if you have additional symptoms such as:

  • bloody mucus when you cough
  • shortness of breath
  • weight loss
  • excessive mucus
  • fever

You may need prescription treatment or diagnostic testing to determine your symptoms’ cause.

In children and babies

If your child has a lingering cough, pay careful attention to the sound of the cough. Any whistling, barking, or wheezing with a cough means you need to take your child to a pediatrician right away.

If there are no other symptoms besides coughing, contact a doctor if the cough lasts longer than 2 to 3 weeks.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a serious infection that can be life threatening, especially for infants.

Look for medical attention right away for severe bouts of coughing that come along with a fever or shortness of breath in any child. Infants younger than 1 should see a pediatrician if they have a cough to rule out pertussis or other serious lung conditions.

A chronic cough can bring complications that lead to other health conditions. Coughing fits can:

  • wake you up from sleeping
  • leave you breathless
  • cause nausea or dizziness
  • cause vomiting
  • cause you to lose control of your bladder
  • interfere with daily activities such as talking, singing, or exercising

Coughing can even lead to passing out if your cough is severe and ongoing.

If you’re experiencing a cough that won’t go away, consider treating it using one or more of these research-backed home remedies. However, these shouldn’t replace any treatments or medications a doctor recommends.

Peppermint tea with honey

Peppermint tea has been studied for its relaxing effect on various body systems. It may help calm your respiratory system and bring relief from persistent coughing.

It can also be combined with honey, which has also been shown to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Thyme and ivy leaf

An herbal preparation of thyme and ivy leaf was found in one study to decrease cough severity and improve health-related quality of life.

Essential oils of thyme and ivy leaf can be inhaled through a diffuser at home. They can also be purchased as a tincture of thyme and ivy leaf at a local health food store.


Bromelain is found in pineapple and is often obtained from the stem rather than the fruit of the pineapple.

In some animal studies, this ingredient has been shown to help with allergic irritation to the airways. Taking it as a supplement may help with a cough due to allergies.

Read on for answers to more questions about a lingering cough.

What does a lingering cough indicate?

A cough that lasts longer than 8 weeks may be a symptom of several conditions, including asthma, allergies, acid reflux, or some respiratory conditions. It could also be caused by smoking or the use of certain medications.

When should I be concerned about a lingering cough?

If you experience a persistent cough that lasts longer than 8 weeks, it may be best to talk with a doctor to determine the cause and best course of treatment. You should also get medical attention if you notice other symptoms such as bloody mucus, shortness of breath, fever, or unintentional weight loss.

How do I get rid of a cough that won’t go away?

Getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated is typically recommended to help ease coughing. You can also try natural remedies, such as peppermint tea with honey, or talk with a healthcare professional about OTC or prescription treatment options.

A cough that won’t go away can be uncomfortable, but it can usually be treated at home. Coughing that lasts 8 weeks or more is considered chronic. You may require prescription treatment or further evaluation.

Some symptoms, such as bloody mucus, wheezing, or shortness of breath, need to be addressed by a doctor. Always get medical care for symptoms that are interrupting your sleep or interfering with your daily activities.