Let’s Talk About Cough aims to create empathy and understanding about chronic cough and its impact on people’s lives by sharing stories in creative ways.

Everybody at some point will suffer from a terrible cough. For most people, the cough soon disappears, but for some it never does.

It is easy to dismiss chronic cough as ‘just a cough’. But few of us appreciate the physical, psychological and social impacts, or the stigma of being unable to control a reflex that others find irritating and even threatening.

Let’s Talk about cough is about understanding the impact that cough can have on people’s lives.

We have formed a community of people living with chronic cough and doctors and researchers who work on the condition. Together we are sharing stories about the experience of cough, the biology of cough and the treatment of cough.

We want chronic cough to be taken seriously by everyone.

Our Story

The first part of Let’s Talk About Cough was the Story Exchange, an online programme of creative workshops to share stories about cough.

We then transformed these stories into a listening experience called One In Ten.

People and communities have engaged with One in Ten in public libraries, at events and festivals.

We put our collective experiences of living with chronic cough into a Pocket Book for supporting people to manage cough in social situations.

Let’s Talk About Cough runs alongside a research project investigating the biological mechanisms of chronic cough, led by Professor Jacky Smith and Professor Maria Belvisi.

The creative producer of Let’s Talk About Cough is Ellen Dowell


I have had a persistent cough for over 25 years. I am a retired teacher and still enjoy reading and learning. When I first became involved in Let’s Talk About Cough, it was amazing to meet people who understood the experience of living with cough every day and wanted to talk about it. Instead of apologising for disturbing people with my noisy barking cough, I was discussing it and thinking about it in lots of creative ways. It felt good to be part of something so positive.


I am a respiratory speech and language therapist. I diagnose and treat patients with cough hypersensitivity and other laryngeal disorders. At the weekend I love being outdoors and travelling around the country with my daughter in our campervan. This project has been eye-opening at highlighting the long-term impact of the disease and it not only affecting the patient themselves but family, friends and work colleagues as well. It has changed the way I think about chronic cough as a therapist and the questions I ask patients.


I have had my cough for 30 years and I really hate it. The cough is an alien who has invaded my body. My friends and family are very supportive. They accept my ever-present cough and they know it’s part of me. My lasting memories of being involved with Let’s Talk About Cough will be meeting the different people who suffer with chronic cough. This coming together has made us a clan with strong ties, fighting the common enemy. My key highlight was working together to develop One in Ten.


I’m a scientist whose work has focused on exploring new drugs to treat chronic cough for the best part of 10 years. I’m also a dad, a partner, a keen amateur thespian and a tech nerd. I like meeting new people, learning and solving problems. Throughout Let’s Talk About Cough, the relationship between all participants was one characterised by empathy, curiosity, trust and above all, fun. I laughed, I cried, and I learned!


I have had a chronic cough for over 12 years. It is frustrating and annoying but also scary when I cannot catch my breath. I am a sociable person and enjoy meeting up with friends. Adopting my two children has been the best thing that I have done. Being involved in Let’s Talk About Cough has been an adventure into a different world. I have met people who are in the same position as me as well as health professionals who are actively working on finding answers and cures for cough.


I am an optimistic person, and always approach a problem with the idea that there is a solution. I am interested in researching the causes and mechanisms of respiratory diseases, and how to cure them or at least make them survivable and alleviate their burden on life. I discovered chronic cough when I joined in the National Heart and Lung Institute in London. The key things I took from Let’s Talk About Cough are how little the public know about this disease and, from patients who shared their stories, how intolerant people can be towards cough.


I have suffered from chronic cough for more than 5 years. I live comfortably except for this nagging cough which also annoys my partner. Being part of Let’s Talk About Cough benefitted me because now I know that I am not alone and others’ experiences helped me to cope with it. It not only helped me socially but I learnt lots about the causes and biology of cough. I am now at peace with my noisy cough and know that more ongoing research is being done in this subject!


I am a poet, fiction writer and creative facilitator. I am passionate about the power of creative writing and storytelling, particularly in relation to health. I loved the way that participants were meaningfully and deeply involved in Let’s Talk About Cough, from start to finish. It is a challenge to sustain this level of engagement, and takes commitment and resources – and I think that this project is a model of best practice in relation to this.


I’m a Partnerships Specialist at Vocal and work with patients and the public to support health research. In this project I helped to find people out in the community who had a chronic cough to work with us and share their stories. The thing I’ll remember most about Let’s Talk About Cough is the sense of community that we created in a short space of time, over a computer screen. That was really powerful. It’s been such a privilege to work alongside so many amazing and talented people.


I am the creative producer of Let’s Talk About Cough. I have worked on many projects engaging people with science and research in creative ways. This one has been incredibly special because of the participants brought together to exchange their experiences about cough. I feel very privileged to have listened to everyone’s stories and worked with them to share those stories by creating One in Ten together. The creative process has been rich, rewarding and supportive.


I am so glad that we did this together, trusted one another, were open and vulnerable,
laughed together

Let’s Talk About Cough, Story Exchange Participant

The Let’s Talk About Cough external evaluation report will be available here later this year.