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Description of the Symptom

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This chapter describes pathology that may lead to a persistent cough. A persistent cough is described as one that the person is unable to stop despite basic therapeutic intervention, as in a common cold remedy. A cough is considered persistent, or chronic, after 3 weeks in duration.1

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Special Concerns

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The physical therapist should consider referral to an appropriate health care provider or be prepared to administer basic life support measures should an individual present with any of the following:

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  • Tussive syncope, which is an episode of persistent coughing that becomes so severe in intensity that the person has a syncopal event

  • Productive cough that is:

    • Pink, frothy (suggestive of pulmonary embolism or pulmonary edema)

    • Bright red (suggestive of an active bleed)

    • Dark red (suggestive of an old bleed)

    • Green (suggestive of an active infection)

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CHAPTER PREVIEW: Conditions That May Lead to Persistent Cough
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Overview of Persistent Cough

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A cough is the body's defense mechanism for removing irritating substances from the bronchial airways, thus providing airway hygiene. A persistent cough can disrupt the individual's lifestyle by causing sleep disturbances and throat and voice soreness and diminish the ability to clear secretions in the future.

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Two mechanisms can trigger a cough: the expiratory reflex, which serves as a defensive mechanism caused by mechanical stimulation of the larynx and causes expiratory effects, and the enhancement of mucociliary stimulation for airway clearance.2,...

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