What is chronic cough?

Coughing is an important reflex to protect the throat and to stop unwanted material entering the airways. However, if coughing continues for a long period of time (chronic cough), it can lead to throat irritation. Chronic cough is often caused by increased sensitivity in the airways and an overactive response to sensation. Unfortunately, with persistent coughing, the throat and the vocal cords can become irritated leading to further urge to cough. Coughing can also lead to sore throat, tight sensations and voice quality change.

It is important to recognise the difference between you needing to cough for safety ‘a helpful cough’ and when it is a response to sensation and may be causing you harm being ‘an unhelpful cough’. Coughing can be triggered by environmental, physical and lifestyle factors. Environmental triggers might include temperature changes, dust, smoke, perfumes, cleaning sprays, aerosol deodorants, pollen. Physical triggers might include talking, laughing, exercise, acid reflux, dehydration, certain medications, suboptimal breathing patterns and post nasal drip. Lifestyle triggers might include smoking, high alcohol or caffeine intake, poor working environments, poor sleep hygiene, stress and anxiety. The impact of cough on a person can be significant and can be physical, social and psychological.

Cough Therapy:

Patients who are referred to speech therapy may sometimes feel unsure about how that will help with their cough. Chronic cough is treated therapeutically when there is no medical cause or respiratory disease. A speech therapy approach to treating chronic cough is now very well documented and has a strong evidence base. Outcomes can be brilliant for patients whether they have been coughing for 8 weeks or 40+ years. Here’s what speech therapy will involve:

  1. Education about cough hypersensitivity, identification of triggers, acknowledgment of the impact of cough.
  2. Help and support to optimise the health of the upper airway including the nose, mouth, throat and voice box.
  3. Learning cough control techniques or alternative ways to respond to the urge to cough.
  4. Psychological support for managing the impact and consequence of persistent cough and other throat symptoms.
  5. Identification of dysfunctional breathing patterns and support to optimise breathing patterns.
  6. Exercises to help improve breathing to speech patterns and vocal technique if necessary.
  7. Cough can normally be treated over 4 therapy sessions but this may vary depending on need.

Clinic Locations:

Total Heath West Berkshire, Lower Henwick Farm, Turnpike Road, Thatcham, RG18 3AP – Tuesdays only

The Manor Hospital, Beech Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7RP – Thursdays only

Virtual video consultations are also available – Monday and Friday

Therapy prices:

  • Initial assessment and advice session (up to 60 minutes) £125
  • Therapy session (up to 45 minutes).  £75
  • Some patients may have treatment funded by their health insurance. Tor Spence is a registered speech therapy provider for most of the UK’s health insurers. Please confirm with your insurance provider if they will fund your speech therapy and ask them for an authorisation code before booking an appointment with VoiceFit.