Coughing is your body’s natural defense mechanism against infection and waste build-up, relieving excess mucus from accumulating.
Coughing that persists could be an indicator of other issues, such as postnasal drip or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Doctors can usually diagnose such conditions based on your medical history and physical examination; skin tests or chest x-rays may also help reveal warning signs.
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People who smoke or inhale strong fumes (like cleaning products and perfumes), have certain chronic illnesses (like bronchitis or asthma), or take certain medications (like ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure) are more likely to experience a cough. A cough can be caused by any of these things when nerves in the larynx or respiratory tract are irritated.
A lingering cough can be frustrating and even embarrassing. It interferes with sleep and causes fatigue, which can negatively impact work performance and social interactions. It also leads to anxiety, which can cause other health problems. It’s important to see a doctor if you’re coughing for more than 1 week, especially if it’s not getting better with treatment.
The good news is that the vast majority of lingering coughs are not serious, though some can be. Many acute illnesses — including the common cold, hay fever, and the flu — produce recurrent coughs. But the cough that accompanies these illnesses usually goes away within a few days. On the other hand, a lingering cough can be the result of a number of conditions, such as postnasal drip, sinusitis, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. It can also be a sign of an infection that affects the lower respiratory tract (like bronchitis or pneumonia) or of a lung collapse (pneumothorax). It may also be the result of a blood clot that travels from the legs to the lungs and blocks the airways (pulmonary embolism). In some cases, a lingering cough is a side effect of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Coughing is an effective way of clearing the throat when airways become blocked with mucus or foreign particles like smoke. Coughing can also be a reaction to lung irritation from viral-related illnesses like colds or influenza; allergy triggers such as pollen or dust particles; or other sources like tobacco smoke are all possible sources of coughs.
Coughing can be either chesty or dry and can produce either phlegm or not. Cough suppressants like dextromethorphan can help soothe dry coughs; for chesty ones an expectorant like Guaifenesin may help thin down phlegm so it can be coughed up more easily.
Coughing can be an irritating condition that disrupts sleep and interferes with work performance and social interactions, as well as lead to fatigue that negatively impacts work performance and social interactions. Chronic coughing may also have physical ramifications such as urinary incontinence, rib pain or fainting episodes.
If the cough persists, it is wise to seek medical diagnosis and treatment from your provider immediately. A persistent cough could be indicative of serious conditions like pneumonia, tuberculosis or lung cancer; infections like whooping cough (pertussis) or shingles should also be taken seriously as potential threats. If fever increases rapidly with difficulty breathing or coughing up blood as an immediate symptom contact emergency care immediately for emergency help; in many instances the persistent cough will subside once its source has been addressed by appropriate medication.
First step in treating chronic cough is identifying its source. Your physician will conduct an exam and order tests, such as chest X-rays or spirometry to measure lung function; and possibly bronchoscopy with camera viewing of airways using thin tube; to check for pneumonia or other lung conditions like eosinophilic bronchitis, along with blood work to look for infections or immune system-affecting conditions, like HIV infection.
Treatment for the source of coughing often eases symptoms. Antibiotics might be prescribed for bacterial infections; drugs that widen airways may help treat COPD or asthma; proton pump inhibitors might help people suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease – another condition associated with chronic coughs.
Home remedies may also provide relief. Drinking fluids, particularly warm liquids, can thin mucus and soothe your throat. Sucking on hard candy or cough drops to ease a dry cough is another effective home remedy; just beware giving honey to children under one year old as it could contain bacteria that is harmful. A cool mist humidifier may be beneficial in decreasing cough symptoms; certain herbs such as guaifenesin or camphor come packaged as an ointment for this purpose – which you can rub on chest or throat to soothe inflammation and relieve your cough symptoms.
Coughing is a natural response that helps clear your airways. But persistent and severe coughing could be a telltale sign of medical illness requiring treatment, and should therefore be addressed accordingly in order to stop coughing altogether. Treating its source is the key to eliminating it!
Most coughs are caused by viruses and should subside within a week or so on their own. However, if your symptoms include sneezing and wheezing as well, antibiotics might be necessary to treat an underlying bacterial infection like sinusitis or pneumonia.
Help combat coughs by practicing good hand hygiene and engaging in social distancing techniques in public places where germs spread easily. Avoid tobacco smoke, get vaccinated for COVID-19 and influenza and get regular physical exams as preventive medicine steps are all useful strategies; and if you suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), follow your physician’s advice for managing it effectively.
To soothe a cough, drink plenty of fluids such as chicken soup or hot water and tea, along with honey to soothe an irritated throat and loosen mucus. A vaporizer or cool mist humidifier may also be useful in moistening the air in your home and help relieve coughs. For those living with acid reflux disease (GERD), proton pump inhibitors may reduce stomach acidity levels which cause coughs.