A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus and irritants such as dust or smoke. It’s rarely a sign of anything serious. A “dry cough” means it’s tickly and doesn’t produce any phlegm (thick mucus). A “chesty cough” means phlegm is produced to help clear your airways. While everyone coughs to clear their throat from time to time, a number of conditions can cause more frequent coughing. APPOTEK can help you with coughs.
Coughing is the body’s way of protecting the airways, both from diseases and from irritants. When we are sick or inhale smoke, more mucus is formed. The cough helps us to get rid of the mucus by transporting it away from the airways and lungs.
Common causes of coughs, in addition to colds, are:
Other less common causes include:
Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchi (large and medium-sized airways) in the lungs that causes coughing. Symptoms include coughing up sputum, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic.
Whooping cough – also known as pertussis or the 100-day cough – is a highly contagious bacterial disease. The Initial symptoms are similar to those of the common cold with a runny nose, fever and mild cough, but these are followed by weeks of severe coughing fits. Following a fit of coughing, a high-pitched whooping sound or gasp may occur as the person breathes in. The coughing may last for 10 or more weeks. A person may cough so hard that they vomit, break ribs, or become very tired from the effort.
COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – is a type of obstructive lung disease characterized by long-term breathing problems and poor airflow. The main symptoms include shortness of breath and cough with sputum production. COPD is a progressive disease, meaning it typically worsens over time.
Pneumonia – is an infection in one or both lungs. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi cause it. The infection causes inflammation in the air sacs in your lungs, which are called alveoli. The alveoli fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe.
You can also cough without being sick.
A foreign body can sometimes get stuck in the throat, for example if the cough started suddenly while the patient was eating.
A cough can also be triggered by dryness from breathing or recurrent aspiration of food into the windpipe in people with swallowing difficulties.
Coughs in Children
Children often cough. Since most colds are viral infections, they often go away on their own within a few days. The cough, however, may persist for several weeks.
Asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs. It is characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and easily triggered bronchospasms. Symptoms include episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These may occur a few times a day or a few times per week. Depending on the person, asthma symptoms may become worse at night or with exercise.
Whooping cough starts as a cold and can cause severe coughing and breathing problems. Most children are vaccinated against whooping cough. The disease can be severe in children younger than one year. Then antibiotics can be given to relieve the cough and reduce the risk of infection.
Croup, also known as laryngotracheobronchitis, is a type of respiratory infection that is usually caused by a virus. The infection leads to swelling inside the trachea, which interferes with normal breathing and produces the classic symptoms of “barking” cough, and a hoarse voice. Fever and runny nose may also be present. Symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. Often it is worse at night and normally lasts one to two days.
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lungs affecting primarily the small air sacs known as alveoli. Symptoms typically include some combination of productive or dry cough, chest pain, fever and difficulty breathing.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children. It starts like a cold. Children can become very sick and get a strong cough, breathing problems and thick mucus. Those at greatest risk for severe illness from RSV include premature infants, babies under 6 months old, or those with weakened immune systems or cardiovascular disease.
Prevention and protection
You can relieve coughs by:
- Using extra pillows when you sleep to raise the airways
- drink a lot. This makes the mucus cleaner and easier to cough up.
- hot drinks
- if you are a smoker, quit smoking
- Honey can be given to reduce cough during the night. (However, do not give honey to children under one year.)
When to consult a doctor
Coughing due to colds usually goes away by itself naturally.
You should consult a doctor if:
- you have cough and fever for more than four days
- coughing persist for more than three weeks
- you think you have whooping cough.
How APPOTEK can help
APPOTEK can help you with coughs. In the initial consultation, a nurse or doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms. You may then be prescribed treatment or referred for further examination. If your child is affected, they should also attend the consultation.