Several recent cough guidelines have advised consideration of occupational or environmental causes for chronic cough, but it is unclear how frequently this recommendation has been routinely applied. Therefore, we undertook a systematic review to address this aspect.
Cough guidelines and protocols were reviewed to identify recommendations for assessment of occupational and environmental aspects of chronic cough. The systematic search previously used to identify intervention fidelity to the use of protocols for diagnosis and management of chronic cough in adults was used for this review after extension to June 2015. PubMed, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library were searched using the same search terms and inclusion criteria as previously. Papers that met our criteria were then reviewed to identify methods used to assess occupational and environmental aspects of chronic cough and the outcomes of these assessments.
Among the 10 general chronic cough guidelines and protocols identified, only the three published since 2006 included details advising detailed occupational and environmental assessments. One additional cough statement focused entirely on occupational cough. Of the 28 cohort studies of patients with chronic cough that specifically noted that they followed guidelines or protocols, none provided details of occupational and environmental assessments.
Despite published recommendations, it is not apparent that occupational and environmental causes for chronic cough are addressed in detail during assessments of patients with chronic cough. This leaves open to speculation whether lack of recognition of an occupational cause may delay important preventive measures, put additional workers at risk, and/or be the reason why a chronic cough may remain unexplained.