Most of us have suffered from an irritating cough at some point in our lives. A cough is a sudden and repetitive reflex (something we have little control over), which aims to clear your breathing passages of an irritant, usually something we have inhaled (such as dust), or mucus.

A cough can be acute (short lasting) or chronic (lasting four weeks or more). There are two main types of cough – dry (which doesn’t produce sputum) or chesty (which produces sputum). 


How To Treat A Cough

In the vast majority of cases, a cough is not a sign of anything serious, and if you are otherwise healthy, you may be able to resolve a cough all on your own, without any medications.

Often, people may choose to alleviate the symptoms of a cough by using over the counter remedies such as medicated throat lozenges, or a cough syrup. There is a wide range of these medications available to treat every type of cough, and these are often helpful to use at night to help you to rest uninterrupted by coughing fits throughout the night.

However, some coughs may not be so easy to manage. Your cough may be especially long lasting, non-responsive to treatment, or cause complications. And these complications may be more impactful on your daily life than you might appreciate.

Here at London Doctors Clinic, our doctors have been listing some of the possible complications of a chronic cough, that you might not have realised until now!


7 Common Coughs Complications:


1. Insomnia:

Having a chronic cough can be exhausting, as coughing disrupts your sleep.


woman yawning

Coughs may lead to sleep complications, such as insomnia


2. Hoarseness:

Regular coughing can cause acute laryngitis (inflammation of the vocal cords), which may lead to voice changes.


3. Headaches:

Coughing is noisy! And being exposed to regular sharp, sudden noise can bring on a noise induced headache.


4. Exacerbation of asthma:

One of the 'triggers' for an asthma attack is a coughing fit.


5. Rupture of nasal and subconjunctival veins:

These are the tiny little veins that live in your nose and beneath your eyes, and they can be ruptured due to the raised pressure in the vessels when you cough. This manifests itself as a nosebleed.


6. Pain:

Constant coughing can have an effect on the muscles in your back and chest, and these may become strained and achy due to the constant movement of the chest wall and back when coughing.


7. Urinary incontinence:

The action of coughing raises the pressure within your abdomen (including your bladder). This, especially if combined with an already weakened pelvic floor, can cause you to leak urine when you cough.


Who Is At Risk of Complications of Coughs?

As we can see, for some people, having a condition that causes a chronic cough can be pretty miserable. But how likely are you to experience complications such as these due to having a cough?

Well, this is a difficult question to answer, as the likelihood of you experiencing complications really depends on the cause, type, severity and duration of your particular cough.

But certain groups of people are at a much higher risk of experiencing additional complications because of their cough. Have a look below to find out if you or a loved one fits into one of the at risk groups:


Babies and Children:

The immune systems (the system that fights off illness) of babies and children are still developing as they grow, which means that this groups ability to pick up bugs and bacteria is greater than an adults, and their ability to fight off illness is compromised. The constant exposure to circulating bugs and viruses in social settings such as childminders or crèches can mean that children can often appear to be afflicted with an ongoing cough or cold that rarely seems to improve.



This is another group that have weaker immune systems due to advancing age, and, like young children, this group is at a particular risk of picking up respiratory illnesses such as influenza (flu), especially during flu season through the winter. One major way for the elderly to stay healthy throughout the winter months is to avail of the flu vaccine at an early stage of the season.


grandad and grandchildren

Both children and the elderly are at risk of cough complications



Some people suffer with chronic diseases that attack and weaken their immune systems, meaning that these systems are less well able to fight off coughs. Such illnesses include HIV/AIDS or immune deficiency such as kidney failure or spleen failure.



Smoking destroys anti-oxidants in the body, reduces the number of 'disease eating' cells in the body, clogs up your breathing passages with mucus (so it is harder to expel mucus upon coughing), irritates the delicate lining of your breathing passages (causing a chronic cough), and causes the immune system to actually attack the lung tissue (in a process called auto-immunity).

This leaves you open to developing long-lasting respiratory disorders more easily. All of these changes mean that you will develop a cough (and its complications) more easily, and find it extra harder to shake off this irritating symptom.


Other respiratory conditions:

If you have an established respiratory condition already, such as COPD or asthma, you may find that it is harder for you to “shake off” a cough or a cold should you get one. This is because your respiratory (breathing) system is already working hard under difficult conditions to keep you healthy, and it is harder for you to cope with extra pressure. Respiratory tract conditions are common in people with COPD, and coughing fits can be a pre-cursor to asthma attacks, so if you suffer from a respiratory condition and develop a new cough, you should always see your GP for advice.


As always, if you're worried about the complications of coughs, why not visit our private GP surgery? Our private doctors are highly qualified and able to assist you with your respiratory health. And with eight private clinics across central London (soon to be nine, with the launch of our new Private GP Paddington), we shouldn't be too far away when you search for a "doctor near me"! 

By Melissa Dillon