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What May Increase Your Risk of Problems From a Cough?

Many conditions, diseases, medicines, and lifestyle choices interfere with your ability to heal or fight infection. You may be at risk for a more serious problem from your symptoms if you have any of the following. Be sure to tell your health professional.


  • Age younger than 3 months
  • Age older than 60
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Living with smokers or being regularly exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Previous surgery to remove the spleen (splenectomy)
  • Recent hospitalization (may increase your risk for pneumonia)

Lifestyle choices

  • Alcohol abuse or withdrawal
  • Drug abuse or withdrawal
  • Occupational exposure to smoke, dust, or fumes
  • Smoking or other tobacco use


  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors such as captopril (Capoten), enalapril maleate (Vasotec), or lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril, or Zestoretic)
  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone
  • Medicines to prevent organ transplant rejection
  • Medicines used to treat cancer (chemotherapy)
  • Radiation therapy


  • Chronic upper respiratory illnesses such as chronic sinusitis, otitis media, or tonsillitis
  • Chronic lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, emphysema), bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, tuberculosis (TB), or bronchiectasis
  • Diabetes
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Heart disease, especially heart failure
  • History of deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or spontaneous pneumothorax
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Stroke
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised December 21, 2011

Last Revised: December 21, 2011

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