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Cold and Flu Center

Causes of a Persistent Runny Nose & Cough

author image Jamie Simpson
Jamie Simpson is a researcher and journalist based in Indianapolis with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. She earned her B.S. in animal science from Purdue University and her Master of Public Affairs in public management from Indiana University. Simpson also works as a massage therapist and equine sports massage therapist.
Causes of a Persistent Runny Nose & Cough
There may be several underlying causes of a runny nose and cough.

A persistent runny nose and cough can be treated in a number of ways, but many of these treatments do nothing to address the underlying causes. The only path to a cure for persistent runny nose and cough lies in understanding the real reasons for the presenting symptoms, notes Patient UK. Understanding common reasons for a persistent runny nose and cough can help sufferers select the most appropriate treatment options.

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Patient UK notes that the single most commonly recorded cause of a runny nose is a cold. KidsHealth from Nemours reports that runny noses and coughs that don't go away can be a sign of a cold that is not healing, and that these coughs and sniffles will be more evident in the evening hours when the respiratory system is more sensitive.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Infections of the upper respiratory tract will leave individuals with a persistent runny nose and cough note both Patient UK and KidsHealth. This can include mild infections such as sinus infections, or more severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.


Allergies are a major cause of both runny nose and cough. Persistent runny nose is often caused by mild allergies such as hay fever, notes Patient UK. Dust mite allergy is another leading cause of persistent and seemingly incomprehensible runny nose and cough, particularly in cases where the runny nose goes on year-round.


Persistent coughing and sniffling may be caused by asthma. KidsHealth notes that in children with asthma, persistent nighttime coughing may be seen as the airways are more sensitive overnight. Patient UK notes that asthma is a common cause of persistent cough in adults.


Smoking is a leading cause of persistent runny nose and cough for both adults and children, notes KidsHealth and Patient UK. In children, a reaction to smoking may be a mild cough that never seems to clear, while in adults it may be a lingering sniffle and cough as the airways fill with mucous in reaction to the smoke.

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