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.
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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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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