Bronchiectasis is Leading Risk Factor for Chronic Cough, Danish Researchers Find

Bronchiectasis is Leading Risk Factor for Chronic Cough, Danish Researchers Find

Bronchiectasis is the main risk factor for chronic cough patients at the individual level, new Danish research shows.

Dr. Morten Dahl of Denmark’s Zealand University Hospital in Køge led the study, “Risk Factors for Chronic Cough Among 14,669 Individuals From the General Population,” which appeared in Chest Journal.

Many patients with cough who need medical assistance suffer from chronic cough, defined as lasting more than eight weeks. Yet despite its prevalence, little is known about the risk factors for chronic cough at the individual and community levels.

Dahl’s team determined and ranked risk factors for chronic cough using data from 14,669 individuals. They collected patient data from the Copenhagen General Population Study, a cohort study that began in 2003 and which is still enrolling participants. Researchers assessed severity of chronic cough using a questionnaire that analyzed physical, psychological and social issues.

Scientists found that 4 percent of the general population had chronic cough, including 3 percent among those who had never smoked and 8 percent in current smokers. The analysis revealed that individuals were affected more psychologically than socially. Women also scored lower in the physical domain, though researchers observed no other statistical differences between men and women.


At the individual level, the top three risk factors among never-smokers were bronchiectasis, asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, which causes heartburn or acid indigestion. Among former smokers, the top three were bronchiectasis, asthma and occupational exposure to dust or fumes. Among current smokers, the top risk factor was airflow limitation.

At the community level, the top three risk factors among never-smokers were being female, asthma and GERD. Among former smokers, they were abdominal obesity, low income and asthma. As with the individual level, the top risk among current smokers was airflow limitation.

The results highlight the importance of bronchiectasis as a risk factor for chronic cough.

“Because the treatment of bronchiectasis may be difficult, interdisciplinary specialized initiatives are necessary,” authors wrote, adding that chronic cough in asthma patients may be a sign of undertreatment, with probable benefits arising from treatment with inhaled corticosteroids.

Smoking’s relevance for chronic cough at the community level was not surprising. It is well-established that smoking causes coughing and other respiratory symptoms. The lack of difference in never-smokers and former smokers in terms of smoking’s importance in chronic cough indicates that smoking’s effects are mostly reversible. Therefore, “smoking cessation is mandatory in the management of patients with chronic cough,” authors advise.

Importantly, bronchiectasis is not included in the group of causes that physicians are urged to evaluate in chronic cough patients. The discrepancy highlights the difficulty of extrapolating guidelines to general practice, the authors wrote, concluding that “strategies to prevent and treat modifiable chronic cough risk factors should be tailored accordingly.”


  1. Peter Sayers says:

    HI I HAVE HAD BRONCHIECTASIS since I was 14 yrs old and am now 66 yrs old I live ok up until past 10 yrs since then have lost count of how many times I been in hospital in ICU and 5 years ago I was so bad my body shut down and ended up I coma for 4 weeks and doctors told my family to get my things in order as they not think I would make it but thanks to God l did then it took me months of Rehap to even walk again but am still fighting every day as I am now getting short of breath very easy but I am a fighter and with great doctor and God’s help will keep on fighting it and try live past 70

    • Terri Mitchell says:

      Hello Peter!

      The fact that you have lived with bronchiecstasis for so many years is inspirational. Would you be interested in coming on our forum and share your story? So many nof the newly diagnosed think they have been given a life sentence. You can find us at We have a wonderful group of members that offer helpful hints and moral support to others just like us. You may learn some good info that could help you to have a better quality of life with this disease. I am the mentor for that group and would welcome having you come aboard. You ARE a fighter! We can help you fight! Sincerely, Terri M. Mayo Connect Mentor

  2. Christine Thomas says:

    I experienced a regular cough for at least 16 years with doctors’ saying it was my medication. My old doctor retired and my new doctor mentioned my cough asking if I had ever had a sample of my sputum taken. The answer then was no so a specimen was taken. As a resul I was called into the surgery within the week and put on antibiotics. I was referred to a specialist and scans taken. Bronchiectasis was diagnosed. I can’t help thinking that if more notice had been taken of my chronic cough I wouldn’t be as poorly
    as I am now.

    • Terri Mitchell says:

      Hi Christine,

      I too had the same as experience as you did. Was sick for years and no sputem test was ever done to see what I had that made me cough non-stop. Because of that, my lung function is dangerously low. I hope that you are seeing a GOOD pulmonologist and Infectious Disease doctor. Peiople with bronchiecstasis commonly get infected with mycobacterium avium & pseudomonas, so make sure they test for those when they do your sputem test. If yuo would like, you can join our bronchiecstasis support group at you will see a list of groups; we are bronchiecstasis/mac Lots of good info and support. Please take care of yourself. Sincerely, Terri M. Mayo Connect Mentor

  3. Mon says:

    Hi i have had bronchie since 10 years ago. I used to cough regularly every day, and in the morning at 4 am, i also can’t sleep supine i will get cough with lot of sputum. I had to high my head when i sleep so i can fall a sleep. I did sputum test many times, and the list of the bactery’s name were so many. I used to drink antibiotics regulary. Surprisingly, since i drink a stemm cell, my cough got stopped. When i got cough now, which is rarely, my sputum now is white (not yellow anymore). I can sleep supine, no need much pillow, and never wake up early in the morning at 4 am because of coughing. I thanks God for my life…

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