Patients with COPD most frequently complain of breathlessness and cough and these are both increased during exacerbations. Studies have generally focused on quality of life during end-stage disease, where breathlessness becomes dominant and cough less important. There are very little data on the frequency and severity of cough in COPD or its impact on quality of life at different stages of disease. Little is known about the factors that influence objective cough counts in COPD. Cough may be a marker for progressive disease in milder COPD patients who continue to smoke, and it may be useful in case-finding for milder disease in the community.The cough reflex sensitivity is heightened in COPD compared with healthy volunteers and similar to that in subjects with asthma. The degree of airflow obstruction does not predict cough reflex sensitivity or objective cough counts, implying an independent process. Effective treatments for cough in COPD have not yet been identified. Improved outcome measures of cough, a better understanding of cough in the natural history of COPD, and its importance to patients are needed.