When a cough has persisted for more than eight weeks it can be defined as a ‘chronic cough’ whether or not it has an obvious underlying cause. It can affect quality of life in many ways, for example by disturbing sleep of the patient, a partner or parents of children who are affected.
Most clinicians will come across patients with chronic cough at some point in their career, and it can be difficult to treat, especially if the underlying cause is not known. The emerging idea of considering chronic cough as cough hypersensitivity syndrome could go a long way to help the understanding of the mechanisms and treatment of the condition.
Many aspects of cough hypersensitivity syndrome were considered at the Seventh International Cough Symposium held in London in July 2012. A series of 12 reviews arising from the symposium will be published in the journal Cough over the coming months. The first 4 articles of the series are already available, which include a review of evidence of higher-brain involvement in cough, a comparison of cough and itch looking at common pathways, a look at current knowledge of cough in sarcoidosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and a touching personal remembrance of Professor John Widdicombe, to whom the 2012 symposium was dedicated.
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