Life-Threatening and Non-Life-Threatening Complications Associated With Coughing: A Scoping Review

CHEST Expert Cough Panel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: This is an update of the section on complications that are associated with coughing in the 2006 CHEST cough guidelines that addresses two aims: (1) to systematically identify and thematically categorize the diverse complications of cough by providing a guide for future studies and (2) to identify gaps in the literature for future research. Research Question: What are the potential complications that are associated with the act of coughing that have been reported in infants, children, adolescents, and adults? Study Design and Methods: A scoping review was performed with the use of PubMed and SCOPUS databases that were searched from their beginning until September 6, 2019. Results: Two hundred forty-seven publications met our inclusion criteria. To these, we added 38 articles from the 2006 complications paper that were not identified in the literature search plus the paper itself for a final total of 286 publications that formed the basis of this review. Since 2006, three new categories of complications have been reported: ear, nose and throat; disease transmission; and laboratory testing. Multiple additional complications that fall outside of these three categories have also been identified and included in the following categories: cardiovascular, constitutional symptoms, dermatologic, GI, genitourinary, musculoskeletal, neurologic, ophthalmologic, psychosocial/quality of life, and respiratory. Not previously highlighted is that some of the complications led to serious morbidity that included death, especially in patients with comorbid conditions, and potentially resulted in harm to others when cough resulted in a motor vehicle accident. Interpretation: Our work identified a large number of cough complications that we thematically categorized primarily by organ system so that future studies of each system or each complication can be conducted. The gap in the literature that future studies should address is to identify the frequency of the complications and the strength of their association with cough. Only then will one be able to describe the findings in a manner that allows specific recommendations for avoiding these complications. In the meantime, patients with cough should be evaluated and treated according to evidence-based guidelines to mitigate or prevent the myriad of potential complications that are associated with coughing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2058-2073
Number of pages16
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • complication
  • cough
  • organ system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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