Cough

Cough is the way the lung strongly releases air. Productive coughs are useful as they protect the lungs and airway passages from mucus and other harmful agents, while nonproductive coughs produce less or no sputum, due to minor throat irritation. However, severe coughs can be very distracting, and cause vomiting and difficulty in breathing. Coughs can be brief but acute coughs last for a few days but less than three weeks. Acute coughs can turn into chronic coughs and persist longer. It is estimated that 14 to 23 percent of non-smoking adults, and 25 to 50 percent of those who smoke have chronic coughs.

Cough Drugs

Cough Symptoms

A cough can be a symptom of some underlying diseases or conditions. When the following symptoms occur, the cough means a more serious health problem is happening.

  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Short, shallow or difficult breathing
  • Weight loss with chronic coughing
  • Fever that goes with cough which lasts more than a day
  • Cough with pneumonia causes sweating, rapid pulse rate increase, bluish lips and nail beds, as well as confused mental state

Cough Causes

A cough is triggered when the body senses something entering the airways. It occurs when the windpipe opening at the back of the throat called glottis is temporarily closed, building up pressure in the lungs. When the glottis opens again, the air explodes and dislodges the foreign substances from the airways. However, chronic coughing can be caused by:

  • Smoking
  • Viral infections like colds, acute bronchitis, flu and croup
  • Sinus infections
  • Allergies
  • Stress
  • Environmental pollution
  • Emphysema
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Atelectasis or partial collapse of the lung
  • Lung cancer
  • Some types of medications like beta blockers and enzyme inhibitors
  • Emotional, psychological problems or habits
  • Tuberculosis

Cough Diagnosis

Diagnosis for coughs depends on the information about the cough, such as symptoms, locations, time of day, medical history and home therapies. Doctors diagnose the cough with a stethoscope and check if the lungs are crackling, rumbling or bubbling when the patient inhales, which can be signs of pneumonia. Other tests are as follows:

  • Chest X-Ray
  • CBC, arterial blood gases, CAT or CT chest scan, sputum and pleural fluid culture
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Bronchoscopy

Cough Treatment

The treatment of a cough will depend largely on its severity and underlying causes. Cough treatments like the following are often aimed to cure infection to prevent complications.

  • Medicines in the form of suppressants and expectorants
  • Massage on the chest and the back muscles to reduce soreness from coughing
  • Removal of irritating agents that cause acute coughs
  • Allergy medications for cough-causing allergies
  • Antibiotics to cure the causing bacterial infection
  • Hospitalization especially for elderly people to manage underlying problems such as a weak immune system
  • Home care of the underlying cause of the cough with doctor’s consultation

Coughs are treated with medicines which patients find useful. Suppressants suppress cough reflex and especially good for dry coughs, but must be used wisely. As coughs can be good, suppressing them totally is not advised unless the patient has a hard time sleeping. Expectorants can make it easier to cough up the mucus in productive coughs.

Home care may include getting lots of rest and drinking more liquids to loosen secretions.