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What Can Cause a Staccato Cough?

A staccato cough, often marked by short, explosive bursts, can be caused by conditions like whooping cough, bronchitis, or asthma. It's your body's reflex to clear the airways, but underlying issues could be at play. Intrigued by how these ailments trigger such a distinctive cough? Dive deeper into each cause and discover the intricacies behind this symptom. What might your cough be telling you?
Kathleen Howard
Kathleen Howard

A staccato cough is one that occurs in short, abrupt bursts and is sometimes compared to the sound of a machine gun. There are several reasons why an individual might develop a staccato cough. In children and older adults, this cough is most commonly caused by chlamydia pneumonia. These coughs can also be caused by certain medications, serious cases of whooping cough, and other respiratory infections.

Certain medications, specifically angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, can cause a staccato cough. Developing a persistent cough like this is usually the sign of a negative reaction to the medication. If the cough worsens or becomes painful, the patient should consult his or her physician. It might be possible to switch to another medication that will not cause this side effect.

Staccato cough may develop as a result of chlamydia pneumonia.
Staccato cough may develop as a result of chlamydia pneumonia.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, can also develop into a staccato cough. Whooping cough is often defined in three stages. In the first stage of the illness, a person will begin coughing and develop a runny nose. It is not until the second stage that most people begin suffering from fits of coughs. If the infection goes untreated, the cough can worsen and persist for several weeks.

Some medications can cause a staccato cough.
Some medications can cause a staccato cough.

Chlamydia pneumonia is a respiratory infection caused by the Chlamydophila pneumoniae bacteria. This infection is most common in children between the ages of five and 15, but might also appear in infants, seniors and sometimes healthy adults. In most cases, chlamydia pneumonia begins with a sore throat and cough. The cough often worsens into a staccato cough and is sometimes followed by bronchitis, pneumonia and other conditions. While antibiotics are often used to encourage recovery, patients will usually continue coughing for two to six weeks.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, can cause the short burst of coughing known as a staccato cough.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, can cause the short burst of coughing known as a staccato cough.

In addition to whooping cough and chlamydia pneumonia, other respiratory infections can also cause this type of cough. These coughs are usually indicative of swelling in the lungs and airways. Infections that cause swelling in these areas, such as viral pneumonia, laryngotracheitis and acute bronchitis, will sometimes lead to a staccato cough. People who suffer from allergies might also experience this type of coughing.

A staccato cough may be a sign of a respiratory tract infection.
A staccato cough may be a sign of a respiratory tract infection.

While this is less common, these coughs can also develop after inhaling an irritating substance. After inhaling an irritant, an individual might experience persistent, abrupt fits of coughing. In most cases, this coughing will improve on its own. Coughing that persists, causes trouble breathing, or becomes painful should be checked by a physician. While most coughs will not lead to serious health problems, they can be indicative of a more dangerous condition.

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Discussion Comments

anon321666

I've heard that staccato coughs are characteristic of infants with pneumonia caused by Chlamydia trachomatis.

Perdido

Allergies can cause staccato coughing if they are severe enough. I got a cough after mowing the yard while it was covered in pollen and the wind was blowing hard.

I coughed in machine-gun style for hours afterward! I took as many antihistamines as often as I could, but even then, it took about seven hours for the cough to subside.

It's pretty scary when nothing seems to calm a cough that takes your breath away. The antihistamines probably just needed time to build up in my system, and because of how much pollen I had inhaled, it took a lot of time.

cloudel

I don't know if there are any good remedies for staccato coughing. I started coughing like this while cleaning out an old dusty shed, and I tried lozenges, tea, and cough syrup, but nothing helped.

I suppose I just needed to cough all the dust out of my lungs. Perhaps it's a good thing that nothing suppressed my cough!

orangey03

@shell4life – I'm so glad there's a vaccine for that now. I've heard that babies can die from it, and they can catch it from adults, so it's important for adults who plan to be around babies to get the vaccine, too.

I had pneumonia when I was young, and it caused me to have a staccato cough. It really is a helpless feeling, and I understand the breathlessness you are referring to.

I've heard that there is now a pneumonia vaccine, too. I think that mostly elderly people get it, and I will definitely get it once I'm in my sixties.

shell4life

I remember having whooping cough when I was very young. It was rough, especially on such a little kid!

I had the type of cough where I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me. I would start to cough, but the air suddenly wasn't there, and I launched into a series of short, breathless coughs.

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    • Staccato cough may develop as a result of chlamydia pneumonia.
      By: Subbotina Anna
      Staccato cough may develop as a result of chlamydia pneumonia.
    • Some medications can cause a staccato cough.
      By: Klaus Eppele
      Some medications can cause a staccato cough.
    • Pertussis, or whooping cough, can cause the short burst of coughing known as a staccato cough.
      By: kmiragaya
      Pertussis, or whooping cough, can cause the short burst of coughing known as a staccato cough.
    • A staccato cough may be a sign of a respiratory tract infection.
      By: Lisa Eastman
      A staccato cough may be a sign of a respiratory tract infection.
    • Staccato coughs can indicate swelling in the lungs.
      By: Ljupco Smokovski
      Staccato coughs can indicate swelling in the lungs.
    • Viral pneumonia can be diagnosed via chest X-ray.
      By: creo77
      Viral pneumonia can be diagnosed via chest X-ray.
    • A humidifier may be helpful in treating a cough.
      By: StockPhotosArt
      A humidifier may be helpful in treating a cough.
    • Urine samples may be ordered to determine if a patient has chlamydia.
      By: Rob Byron
      Urine samples may be ordered to determine if a patient has chlamydia.