Nela device

Chronic cough vs. acute cough – a definition

What exactly is chronic cough and how is it different from acute cough? Internationally, chronic cough is defined as a cough that lasts for more than eight weeks and whose cause cannot be explained by medical history, physical examination, lung function, and chest X-ray.2

Experts classify cough in three stages:

  1. Acute cough: up to 2 weeks duration (usually with a cold)
  2. Subacute cough: 3 to 8 weeks duration
  3. Chronic cough: over 8 weeks duration

In addition to the duration, other indicators of chronic cough include accompanying symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain or nocturnal awakenings due to coughing fits.

Doctor and patient

COPD, Asthma and Co:
Chronic Cough

Doctors stress that it is important to take long-lasting coughs seriously. It can be a symptom of a number of conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).3

Above all, the objective assessment of coughing is a challenge: Chronic cough is usually recorded with questionnaires and diaries, i.e. purely subjective means. As a rule, they do not agree with objective measurement data. However, a successful therapeutic approach should be based on data that is as accurate as possible and thus also on objective measurement methods. 2

The level of suffering caused by coughing can generally be very high, especially with chronic coughs, many people have a severely limited quality of life.4 Serious illnesses can be behind chronic coughing – but clarifying the cause is not always easy.

This is where NELA comes in: This advanced technology is specifically designed to track coughs and overcome the challenges of managing chronic coughs.

COPD, Asthma, and Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency:
A Brief Overview

Facts about asthma

The chronic respiratory disease asthma affects an estimated 262 million people worldwide.5 The disease is caused by inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Sufferers have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and a feeling of tightness in the chest.6

Current effective treatments include inhalers, which deliver drugs directly into the lungs. Despite the availability of this therapy, asthma is often underdiagnosed and undertreated in low- and middle-income countries, resulting in a high mortality rate. The World Health Organization is therefore committed to improving the diagnosis and treatment of asthma. 6

COPD in a nutshell

COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – is a serious disease. With 3.23 million deaths in 2019, it is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. COPD includes conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The symptoms are mainly cough with phlegm, difficulty breathing and fatigue. 7

There is no cure for COPD, but symptoms can be managed with medication, oxygen therapy, and breathing exercise. Therapy includes bronchodilator inhalants and anti-inflammatory steroids. However, access to appropriate treatment remains a challenge in many parts of the world. 7

What is Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency?

It is estimated that up to 20,000 people in Germany suffer from alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. It is a hereditary metabolic disease in which an important protective protein for the lungs is missing, which leads to a progressive breakdown of lung tissue. Possible symptoms include shortness of breath, cough and sputum. 8

The disease often goes unrecognized because similar symptoms also occur in more common conditions such as COPD or asthma. Although there is no cure for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, there are therapeutic options to slow the progression of the disease, such as bronchodilator drugs and substitution therapy with infusions. 8

Doctor and patient

Chronic cough can be the cause of a wide variety of serious illnesses. In the future, NELA will support those affected in making cough objectively measurable and thus improve therapies in the long term.

Find out more about how people can benefit from NELA here.
  1. Yang, X. et al: Worldwide prevalence, risk factors and burden of chronic cough in the general population: a narrative review. J. Thorac. Dis. 2023;15(4):2300-2313. doi: 10.21037/jtd-22-1435
  2. Koehler, U. et al.: Chronischer Husten – Neue diagnostische Perspektiven? Laryngo-Rhino-Otol. 2019;98(01):14-20. doi: 10.1055/a-0790-0777
  3. Schreiber, J.: Chronischer Husten: Was ist zu beachten? Dtsch. Arzteb. 2017;114(9):[4] doi: 10.3238/PersPneumo.2017.03.03.01
  4. Holzinger, F. et al.: Akuter und chronischer Husten – Differenzialdiagnose und Behandlung. Dtsch. Med. Wochenschr. 2022;147(15):989-1001. doi: 10.1055/a-1716-8101
  5. The Lancet: Global Health Metrics
  6. World Health Organization: Asthma
  7. World Health Organization: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  8. Alpha1 Deutschland e. V.: Alpha-1-Antitrypsin-Mangel – Was ist das?