Respiratory viral infections are a common cause of acute coughing, an irritating symptom for the patient and an important mechanism of transmission for the virus. Although poorly described, the inflammatory consequences of infection likely induce coughing by chemical (inflammatory mediator) or mechanical (mucous) activation of the cough-evoking sensory nerves that innervate the airway wall. For some individuals, acute cough can evolve into a chronic condition, in which cough and aberrant airway sensations long outlast the initial viral infection. This suggests that some viruses have the capacity to induce persistent plasticity in the neural pathways mediating cough. In this brief review we present the clinical evidence of acute and chronic neural dysfunction following viral respiratory tract infections and explore possible mechanisms by which the nervous system may undergo activation, sensitization and plasticity.