Key points
  • Habit cough is most commonly characterised by a repetitive loud barking cough that persists for prolonged periods.
  • The cough interferes with normal activity and substantially decreases the quality of life.
  • The sine qua non is the total absence of this troublesome cough once asleep.
  • The age distribution ranges from 4 years to late adolescence, with 85% of cases occurring from 8 to 14 years of age; similar cough in adults is much less common and poorly characterised.
  • Pharmacological treatment is ineffective.
  • A simple behavioural approach called suggestion therapy has been applied with success by many physicians.
  • The natural history in the absence of treatment can result in persistence for months to years.