Coughing is a common reflex action that clears your throat of mucus or other foreign irritants. Coughing can be caused by a number of different triggers. Even though everyone occasionally clears their throat by coughing, there are a number of conditions that can cause a person to cough more frequently than normal.
A cough that has lasted for fewer than three weeks is considered to be an acute cough. Within two weeks, the majority of your coughing episodes should go away entirely or at the very least significantly improve.
The term “subacute cough” refers to a cough that has lasted for three to eight weeks but has shown signs of improvement toward the end of that time period. A chronic cough is defined as one that has lasted for more than eight weeks continuously.
If you are coughing up blood or if you have a cough that sounds like barking, you should see a doctor. You need to get in touch with them as well if after a few weeks your cough hasn’t improved, as this may be an indication of something more serious.
What are the reasons for a cough?
Several conditions, both temporary and permanent, can cause a cough.
Coughing is the most common and effective way to clearing your throat. A cough is a reflex reaction that occurs when your airways become clogged with mucus or foreign particles such as smoke or dust. This reflex reaction is an attempt to clear the airways of the particles and make it easier to breathe.
This particular type of coughing occurs relatively infrequently, but the frequency of coughing episodes will increase when the patient is exposed to irritants like smoke.
Viruses and bacteria
A respiratory tract infection, such as a cold or flu, is the most common cause of a cough.
Respiratory tract infections are most commonly caused by viruses and can last anywhere from a few days to a week. Infections caused by the flu may take a little longer to heal and may necessitate the use of antibiotics.
Coughing can be a common side effect of smoking. A cough that is brought on by smoking is almost always a persistent cough that has a characteristic sound. It is commonly referred to as a cough brought on by smoking.
When treating an asthma exacerbation, an inhaler is the recommended method of delivery. As they get older, some children are able to outgrow their asthma and no longer need treatment.
Some medications can cause coughing, but this is a rare side effect. Coughing can be caused by angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which are commonly used to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions.
The following are two of the more frequent ones:
- Zestril (lisinopril) (lisinopril)
- Vasotec (enalapril) (enalapril)
When treatment with the medication is stopped, the coughing goes away.
The following are some other conditions that might cause a cough:
- injury to the vocal cords
- postnasal dripping
- pneumonia, whooping cough, and croup are all examples of bacterial infections.
- serious illnesses like heart failure and pulmonary embolism
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is another common cause of chronic cough (GERD). The contents of the stomach flow back into the oesophagus in this condition. This backflow activates a tracheal reflex, causing the person to cough.
When is coughing considered an emergency?
Most coughs will go away or significantly improve within two weeks. If your cough hasn’t improved in this time, see a doctor because it could be a sign of something more serious.
If new symptoms appear, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Observe the following symptoms:
- chest pains
Coughing up blood or having trouble breathing necessitates immediate medical attention.
What is the treatment for a cough?
Depending on the cause, coughs can be treated in a variety of ways. Most treatments for healthy adults will involve self-care.
Antibiotics cannot be used to treat a virus-caused cough. You can, however, calm it down in the following ways:
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- When sleeping, elevate your head with extra pillows.
- To soothe your throat, use cough drops.
- To remove mucus and soothe your throat, gargle with warm salt water on a regular basis.
- Avoid irritants such as smoke and dust.
- To relieve coughing and clear your airway, add honey or ginger to hot tea.
- To unclog your nose and make breathing easier, use decongestant sprays.
More cough remedies can be found here.
Typically, your doctor will examine your throat, listen to your cough, and inquire about any other symptoms you may be experiencing.
If your cough is caused by bacteria, your doctor will likely prescribe oral antibiotics. To fully cure the cough, you should take the medication for a week. They may also prescribe expectorant cough syrups or codeine-containing cough suppressants.
If your doctor is unable to determine the cause of your cough, he or she may order additional tests. This may include:
- a chest X-ray to see if your lungs are clear
- If they suspect an allergic reaction, they will perform blood and skin tests.
- analysis of phlegm or mucus for signs of bacteria or tuberculosis
It is extremely unusual for a cough to be the only symptom of heart problems; however, a doctor may request an echocardiogram to ensure that your heart is working properly and that it is not the cause of the cough.
Cases that are particularly challenging might call for additional testing:
- Radiological examination using a CT scanner. A CT scan provides a more comprehensive view of the chest and airways than other imaging methods. When trying to figure out what’s making someone cough, it might come in handy.
- Esophageal pH monitoring. If the CT scan does not reveal the underlying cause, your primary care physician may suggest that you see a specialist in either the gastrointestinal or pulmonary (lung) fields. Monitoring of the patient’s esophageal pH, which looks for signs of GERD, is one of the diagnostic procedures that these specialists may use.
Cough suppressants may be prescribed by doctors in situations in which the standard treatments are either unable to be administered or have an extremely low likelihood of being successful, or when it is anticipated that the cough will go away without medical intervention.
What would happen if the condition was not treated?
A cough will usually go away on its own within a week or two of first appearing. Coughing rarely results in long-term damage or symptoms.
A severe cough may result in temporary complications such as:
- fractured ribs
These are extremely rare, and they usually stop when the coughing stops.
A cough that is a symptom of something more serious is unlikely to go away on its own. If the condition is not treated, it can worsen and cause other symptoms.
What precautions can be taken to avoid getting a cough?
Although occasional coughing is required to clear the airways, there are ways to prevent future coughs.
Smoking is a common cause of chronic cough. Curing a smoker’s cough can be extremely difficult.
There are numerous methods available to assist you in quitting smoking, ranging from gadgets to advice groups and support networks. You’ll be much less likely to catch a cold or develop a chronic cough after you quit smoking.
An earlier study from 2004 discovered that people who ate diets high in fruit, fibre, and flavonoids were less likely to experience chronic respiratory symptoms like coughing.
If you need assistance with diet modifications, your doctor may be able to advise you or refer you to a dietitian.
To avoid coming into contact with germs, avoid anyone who has a contagious illness, such as bronchitis.
Handwash frequently and avoid sharing utensils, towels, or pillows.
If you already have a medical condition that increases your chances of developing a cough, such as GERD or asthma, talk to your doctor about different treatment options. Once the condition is under control, your cough may go away or become much less frequent.