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Lung diseases

Persistent tickle in lungs

09/11/2007

Question:

I have had a persitent tickle in the upper part of my lungs for 5 1/2 months. I am cognisant of every breath I take because of it and have difficulty with talking without a little cough. It seems that shallow breaths (like while talking) aggravate the tickle and cause me to cough more than deep breaths do. I have no difficulty getting enough air, but it is very annoying and embarassing while talking. The cough is not deep and is not productive, but seems to just be a reaction to the tickle. I have no sinus problems and am not clearing my throat. This started with a virus 5 1/2 months ago where I was coughing violently constantly day and night for about 6 days and it was obvious that my bronchioli were inflamed. I couldn`t get proper treatment because I was in Mexico at the time. The illness and cough went away, but the tickle has remained. I have tried Advair, Nasacort and Proventil, none of which has helped. What could this be?

Answer:

Assuming you are a non-smoker and have a normal chest x-ray, the most common causes of these types of cough are esophageal reflux, post-nasal drip, medications (especially ACE inhibitors), asthma, and vocal cord dysfunction. Many people with cough that originate after whooping cough (which in adults can mimic a severe cold) can have lingering cough for months. You should discuss these different conditions with your doctor to determine if additional testing or treatment for them are indicated in your unique situation.

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Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University