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Cough: symptom, types, causes, prevention

Researched by Sarfraz
Updated on 1/1/2022

What is cough

Cough is the response or symptom produce by our body against something which causes a blockage, or something like that, in our throat or air-pathways. This thing (acting as an irritant) causes the nerves to send a message to our brain, which causes our chest muscles to contract to push out the irritant from the air pathways.

The phenomenal speed creates a strong pull that clears the air-pathways from irritants.

Cough is quite manageable, but it can be a distraction for others, or cough, again and again, can make you achy and exhausted. A casual cough is considered normal, but that which continues throughout the weeks or makes bloody mucus could be a clue for you to seek medical attention.

Classification of cough

There are different types of cough. Its symptoms in every person are not the same. Types and classifications of cough depend on the duration, person, time, and quality of cough.

1. Cough called acute cough if it is present in the patient for less than three weeks. The patient catches this usually due to a common cold. An acute cough is usually worst in the beginning, but it lost its strength after two weeks.

2. A cough that lasts between the time of 3 to 8 weeks is called sub-acute. This cough usually goes away after some days without treatment.

3. Cough, which lasts after eight or more weeks, is called chronic cough. This type of illness mostly happened due to asthma, allergies, or the reactions of acid reflux disease. It is widespread in people who smoke regularly.

Types of cough

There are several types of coughs that are affecting people's health. Below mentioned some types are most common:

Whooping cough

The word whooping is used for this type is because, after the cough, the patient produces a sound that listens like "whoop". A vaccine for whooping cough is available. The type can be dangerous for infants, so proper care for babies after their birth is needed.

Cough with wheezing

This type produces a wheezing sound when the patient exhales, and it can be a sign of a blockage in the lower airways. The blockage in wheezing cough can be due to the swelling caused by some respiratory infection like bronchiolitis, pneumonia, asthma, or some blockage in the throat.

Sudden cough

Coughing helps us to clear the throat and airways. Sudden coughing happened when a portion of food or other thing gets stuck in the throat or airways. In this situation, don't try to clear the throat with your hands as you or your friend can push the blockage more further. In sudden cough type due to blockage in the throat can cause breathing issues, so reach the doctor as soon as possible.

Barking cough

It is a dry cough that sounds like a barking seal. Barking cough is mainly linked with laryngotracheitis(croup). It can be due to some viral respiratory infections. Effects of allergies, asthma and abrupt temperature change can also cause this.

Daytime cough

A cold environment during the day can cause a severe row of coughs. Asthma, allergies, common cold, respiratory infections are the main contributor to causing daytime cough.

Wear warm clothes that cover your whole body in the cold season. Keep yourself away from fragrances, pets, and polluted air if you have a severe cough or allergy problem.

Nighttime cough

Nighttime cough is prevalent. Many peoples face this issue. Coughing at night can become worse because during sleeping person usually lays flat on the bed, due to which a large amount of mucus can slip into the back of the throat, which can cause a series of annoying coughing.

Asthma may make this problem more irritable so keep an inhaler or other medicines near your bed if you have asthma or related breathing problems.

Fever Cough

A simple cold can make you ill. You may get a fever with a cough and runny nose due to a cold. High fever with a heavy cough can be a severe health condition, pneumonia. Pneumonia can cause severe complications in infants, children, older people, and weak people.

Cough with vomiting

Vomiting during coughing can be the reason for respiratory infection. Too much coughing can disturb the gag reflex, which can result in throw up. Too much or persistent vomiting can be dangerous, and in this condition, you may need to contact the doctor. Due to some health problems, excess mucus in the stomach can also lead to cough and vomiting.

Persistent cough

A persistent cough means a coughing problem that remains for weeks. Chronic infections, Asthma, Allergies, or some other health problems can lead to a persistent cough in the patient.

A persistent cough can last for more than three weeks. If your infant or child is having this type of cough, then visit the health institute immediately. Infants and children are weak against diseases compared to adults, so always take care of yourself and the health of your loved ones in a proper way.

Cold Cough

The common cold can introduce other health problems, including coughing. A person may get a sore throat, low fever, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, and cough as the common cold symptoms.

Wet cough

This type of coughing brings the mucus up from the respiratory system in the throat or the mouth. A common cold or flu is the common cause of wet cough.

Dry cough

A dry cough is a non-productive type of cough that generally does not produce mucus and phlegm in the patient.

Covid 19 and dry cough

Cough is the common symptom of covid 19. Most corona patients face dry cough with other signs of covid 19. Covid-19 is an illness that has to turn into a pandemic. Coronavirus SARS-COV-2 is causing this disease.

Paroxysmal cough

It is a bad type of cough. In this, patients cough frequently and face more difficulty in breathing.

Causes of cough

You can't consider few times are coughing as a health problem. Occasional coughing is deemed to be normal only persistent coughing that lasts for many weeks can result from some health problems. Here are some main health problems that can lead to chronic coughing:

  • Asthma-Cough is very common in asthma patients. In cough variant asthma, a persistent cough is the main symptom. Cough due to asthma can trigger season change effects, infections, allergies, or the smell of some chemicals and fragrances.
  • Postnasal drip-Smoking smokers are at high risks of getting lung problems. Their chances of getting chronic coughing and lung cancer are very high as compared to nonsmokers.
  • GERD
  • Flu
  • Heart diseases
  • Common cold
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Heartburn
  • Dry mouth
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Infections
  • Sore throat
  • Infections
  • Lung diseases
  • Drugs side effects
  • Sinus problems
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases
  • Lung Cancer
  • Emphysema
  • Allergy rhinitis

Complications of cough

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Passing out
  • Sleep issues
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy sweating
  • Bad mood
  • Headache
  • Urine related problems
  • Fracture ribs

How to prevent cough

Avoid smoking

Smoking kills. It is a famous sentence that you may have listened to on tv or the internet. Smoking is one of the top contributors to creating lung diseases. Breathing-related problems are severe in smokers. Here is the comparison of nonsmoker's lungs and smoker's lungs.

Cover your body entirely in winter

Cold weather also triggers cough symptoms. By wearing warm clothes, you may help yourself in reducing the complex season effects.

Home Remedy for cough

Here are some home remedies:

Add honey to your daily diet.

Use honey to control the cough. Honey is usually termed a natural cough suppressant and provides health as well. The people, who find it's taste good, are considered lucky. Honey is often used with hot liquids for treating cough but for short-term periods. One can use hot water or hot tea and then add honey, along with lemon, which is merely providing flavour to this solution.

One can directly use honey for cough at home, and this method has proved effective in controlling cough. A study published in the journal Pediatric Clinics of North America interprets that young children, who had respiratory tract infections, were given up to two teaspoons of honey at bedtime, and it proved effective in controlling cough.

The honey not only controlled the cough but improved their sleep as well. One more study published in Jama Pediatrics interprets that honey had surprising benefits in controlling cough in children aged two to eighteen. One should not give honey to children whose ages are one year only.

Drink a lot of fluids

Fluids of all kinds, particularly warm ones, like tea, chicken soup, and water, are another effective remedy against cough at home. People having coughs are likely to get dehydrated. And these fluids are not only a remedy for dehydration, but it helps your immune system overcome the cause which is causing cough as well. It soothes a sore throat that is usually common with coughing.

Gargle with saltwater

Gargling with salty warm water is very effective against many respiratory infections and chronic cough. Many studies and researches have found that gargling with warm salty water can reduce the symptoms of chronic cough, common flu, and cold.

Take a warm shower

A warm shower can help you to ease the symptoms of cough. Just go to the bathroom and put some warm water on yourself. By doing this, you will feel some good change.

Drink tea

Drink tea as drinking tea can reduce the irritation effects. Warm tea can also make mucus thin, which results can improve breathing problems. Add lemon and honey to the tea to increase its effectiveness.

Avoid smoking

Stop smoking because it contributes a lot to lung problems. Chronic cough is very common in smokers.

See which thing trigger cough and avoid it.

Make sure to keep those trigger factors that contribute to igniting the cough episodes.

When to see the doctor

Contact your doctor if you have had a cough for more than three weeks. Chronic cough can be due to health diseases. Make an appointment with the doctor if you are getting any of these symptoms:

  • High fever along with coughing
  • Fainting effects
  • Breathing issues
  • Weight loss
  • Thick green and yellow mix phlegm with cough
  • Emergency symptoms of cough

Symptoms of cough

  • Sore throat
  • Frequent need to clear throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Wheezing
  • Breathing problems
  • Sour taste
  • Heartburn
  • Runny nose

Emergency symptoms

If you are facing the below symptoms, then call 911 or any other health emergency service:

  • Chest pain with heavy cough
  • Too much difficulty in breathing
  • Unable to stand
  • Blood with phlegm
  • Choking

Which specialist you should visit

People having problems with a persistent cough should visit specialists, depending on the basic reason. Pulmonologists have specialization in treating diseases of air-passage ways. An allergist is a specialist specializing in treating chronic cough, which might be due to allergies.

A gastroenterologist has specialization in diseases of the digestive tract and treats persistent cough, which might be due to gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). Cardiologists have done specialization in diseases of the heart and circulatory system. They can treat continual cough because it could be a secondary symptom of heart disease.

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  3. Paul IM, Beiler J, McMonagle A, Shaffer ML, Duda L, Berlin CM. Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(12):1140–1146. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.12.1140
  4. Satomura K, Kitamura T, Kawamura T, Shimbo T, Watanabe M, Kamei M, Takano Y, Tamakoshi A; Great Cold Investigators-I. Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial. Am J Prev Med. 2005 Nov;29(4):302-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2005.06.013. PMID: 16242593.
  5. Ramalingam, S., Graham, C., Dove, J. et al. A pilot, open labelled, randomised controlled trial of hypertonic saline nasal irrigation and gargling for the common cold. Sci Rep 9, 1015 (2019).
  6. Chronic cough-Mayo clinic
Health Diseases Preventions
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