Characterization of urge to cough and cough symptoms associated with the common cold: results of a US internet survey

Ron Eccles, Peter Dicpinigaitis, Ronald B. Turner, Howard M. Druce, Maryann Adeleke, Ashley L. Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives: Our knowledge of cough physiology is limited despite years of study. Even less is known about the sensation of urge to cough. Given that limited clinical data are available about urge to cough and cough attributes during a common cold, we sought to gain insights into experiences and perceptions related to these symptoms. Methods: An internet survey consisting of 51 questions was fielded in the United States. Eligible survey participants included men and women aged 18 years and older who had suffered from a cold with cough within the three months preceding the survey. Participants who confirmed suffering from recurrent cough, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, or gastrointestinal reflux were excluded. Results: Of 19,530 initial respondents, 8011 had a cold in the past three months. Of these, 6484 (81%) had experienced cough symptoms; 2708 respondents with cough due to cold and no exclusionary condition made up the analysis sample. Most respondents (62%) reported that cough developed one to two days after the onset of cold symptoms, and 45% felt that cough worsened their other cold symptoms. In 69% of respondents, cough outlasted other cold symptoms. Urge to cough was reported by 98% of respondents, and among these respondents, 64% described it as uncontrollable and 65% rated severity as moderate. More than half of respondents (57%) considered the sensation of urge to cough and the act of coughing as equally bothersome. Although urge to cough and inability to control cough were the most bothersome aspects of cough due to cold, few (<20%) respondents asked healthcare providers for treatment recommendations. Conclusion: Symptoms of urge to cough and cough are common and have a significant impact on cold sufferers. Understanding attributes of these symptoms may provide insights for effective management and the development of novel treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-491
Number of pages7
JournalPostgraduate medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 3 2016


  • Cough
  • common cold
  • epidemiology
  • surveys
  • symptoms
  • upper respiratory tract infection
  • urge to cough

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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