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8 Reasons Your Cough Is Not Improving

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Reason 5: Overusing OTC Nasal Decongestant Spray

Over-the-counter (OTC) nasal decongestant sprays may help with a stuffy or runny nose. Don't use them for more than 3 days, though. If you do, when you finally stop taking them, your symptoms may be worse -- a rebound effect. Those excess sprays make your nasal membranes swell, which triggers more congestion, postnasal drip, and coughing.

Reason 6: Air That's Too Dry or Too Moist

"Dry air -- especially common in the winter -- can irritate a cough," Edelman says. On the other hand, cranking up the humidifier too high isn't helpful, either. Moist air can be a trigger for asthma and encourage the growth of dust mites and mold, allergens that may start you hacking.

"People should aim for humidity levels of 40% to 50% in their homes, winter and summer," Edelman says.

Reason 7: Bacterial Infection

Sometimes, a cold can leave behind an unwelcome parting gift. When your airways are raw and irritated after a cold, it's easier for bacteria to invade. Bacteria can cause sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia. If you have a fever or pain along with your lingering cough, a bacterial infection could be the reason. See your doctor, as you may need to take an antibiotic.

Reason 8: Your Blood Pressure Medicine

Do you take medicine for high blood pressure? If so, that may be why your cough won't quit. About 1 out of 5 people who take ACE inhibitors develop a chronic, dry cough as a side effect. If you have this side effect, talk to your doctor. Another drug may work better for you. There are many available ACE inhibitors, including:

  • Altace (ramipril)
  • Capoten (captopril)
  • Lotensin (benazepril)
  • Prinivil, Zestril (lisinopril)
  • Vasotec (enalapril)

If the generic name of your medicine ends with "pril," there's a good chance it's an ACE inhibitor. 

If your cough isn’t getting better after a week, call your doctor. Together, you can find out what’s causing your cough and make sure you get the right treatment.

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Reviewed on October 09, 2013

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