When your throat or airways are irritated, your body will cough as a defense mechanism. Your brain receives a message from your nerves when you are troubled. In order to expel the irritant, the brain then commands the muscles in your chest and belly to contract and force air out of your lungs.

An abrupt, vehement air evacuation from the lungs is known as a cough. It is a reflex that aids in removing irritants from the airways, such as mucus, dust, or foreign particles. Numerous factors, such as the following, might trigger coughs:

  • Infections caused by viruses: The common cold, the flu, and bronchitis are all frequent causes of coughs.
  • Cases caused by bacteria: Pneumonia and whooping cough are two bacterial illnesses that can result in coughing.
  • Asthma and hay fever are two examples of allergens that can cause coughing.
  • Dust, smoke, and other environmental irritants might also make you cough.
  • The side effect of several drugs, such as ACE inhibitors and beta blockers, can be coughing.
  • Structure-related issues: Tumours, enlarging lymph nodes, or collapsing lungs are just a few structural issues that can result in coughing. These issues can also affect the lungs or airways.

Coughs typically don’t cause any real harm and disappear on their own after a few weeks. To rule out a more serious underlying problem, you should contact a doctor if your cough persists for longer than eight weeks or if it is accompanied by other symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, or bloody mucus.

Numerous actions can be taken to assist with cough relief, such as:

  • Get lots of sleep. Your body will have time to recuperate as a result.
  • Drink a lot of water. As a result, mucus will thin, making it easier to cough up. Take a hot shower or use a humidifier. Mucus will become more easily loosened as a result, making coughing easier.
  • Purchase some over-the-counter cough treatment. Cough suppressants can help you fall asleep more easily by reducing your cough reflex.
  • Steer clear of smoking and passive smoking. Smoking can aggravate coughing by irritating the airways.

Why do people cough?

  • Respiratory infections, including the common cold, influenza (flu), bronchitis, or pneumonia, are the most prevalent cause of coughing. When the respiratory system becomes irritated by these infections, the body tries to clear the airways by coughing.
  • Coughing can be brought on by allergies, which include reactions to things like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and certain foods. An immunological response brought on by allergies causes the airways to inflame, which causes a cough.
  • Chronic inflammation and constriction of the airways are two symptoms of asthma. Coughing is a typical asthma symptom, primarily when it occurs during flare-ups or when it is brought on by allergens, physical activity, or cold air.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): GERD is brought on by irritation from stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. This may result in a chronic cough that gets worse at night or right after eating.
  • Environmental Irritants: When exposed to irritants like cigarette smoke, air pollution, potent odors, or chemicals, the airways can become inflamed and irritated, which can result in coughing.
  • Postnasal Drip: Coughing may occur when too much mucus from the nose or sinuses drops down the back of the throat.
  • Medication: A dry cough is a side effect of some drugs, including ACE inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure.
  • Lung Conditions: Interstitial lung illness, bronchiectasis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can all lead to persistent coughing.
  • Foreign things inhaled by youngsters can irritate their throats and trigger coughing by causing them to inhale small objects like food or toys.
  • Smoking, lung cancer, heart failure, pertussis (whooping cough), and some occupational exposures are additional variables that can induce or worsen coughing.
Why do people cough?

Natural remedies of cough

Honey: Honey is a well-liked natural cough suppressant. It can help calm sore throat tissues and has antibacterial qualities. Drink warm water or herbal tea infused with 1-2 tablespoons of honey several times throughout the day.

Ginger: Ginger naturally reduces inflammation and fights bacteria, which can assist with cough relief and sore throat relief. Fresh ginger slices can be steeped in hot water for ten minutes to make ginger tea. For added advantages, mix with some honey and lemon juice.

Inhaling steam can assist to break up mucus and calm coughing. To make a tent, boil some water in a kettle, turn off the heat, and cover yourself with a cloth. For five to ten minutes, lean over the pot while taking care not to get too close and breathe in the steam.

Gargling with warm salt water has been shown to help soothe sore throats and lessen coughing. Warm water with half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in it should be gargled for 30 seconds before being spat out. Repeat a few times per day.

Mint: Peppermint oil or leaves might help relieve coughing symptoms. To create tea, steep peppermint leaves in hot water. To inhale steam, add peppermint oil to hot water.

Different types of cough

  • A dry cough, also referred to as an ineffective cough because it doesn’t cause mucus or phlegm, is also known. It may be brought on by a number of things, including viruses, allergies, irritants, or medicines.
  • Mucus or phlegm is produced during a productive cough, which is characterized by it. The common cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia are among the respiratory illnesses where it frequently manifests. The extra mucus in the airways can be cleared up by coughing.
  • Wet Cough: A wet cough is a type of productive cough that frequently results in the production of thick or colored mucus. Usually, it’s connected to bronchitis, sinusitis, or respiratory infections.
  • A barking sound, resembling that of a dog or seal, characterizes this sort of cough. It is frequently observed in cases of croup, a viral infection that affects children’s upper airways.
  • Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial ailment that is extremely contagious. It results in violent coughing spells, which are followed by a “whooping” noise as the sufferer struggles to breathe. Infants and young children are the main groups impacted.
  • Chronic Cough: A chronic cough is one that lasts longer than eight weeks and can be brought on by a number of underlying health issues, including asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic bronchitis, or postnasal drip.
  • Allergy-Related Cough: Coughing can be brought on by allergies to things like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. Other allergy symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, or itchy eyes frequently accompany the cough.

Symptoms of cough

  • Sore Throat: Coughing can frequently lead to throat irritation and inflammation, which can result in a sore or scratchy throat.
  • Chest Pain: Coughing might make you feel pain or tightness in your chest. When coughing is prolonged or severe, this sensation could be more noticeable.
  • Shortness of Breath: People may experience trouble breathing or a sensation of being out of breath, especially when coughing vigorously or for an extended period of time.
  • Fatigue: Coughing frequently can be physically draining, resulting in sensations of tiredness or fatigue.
  • Wheezing: People with asthma or other respiratory diseases are more likely to experience wheezing, which is a high-pitched whistling sound that happens during breathing.
  • Runny or Stuffy Nose: Nasal symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose may accompany coughing brought on by allergies or respiratory illnesses.
  • Fever, body aches, and a general feeling of malaise may accompany a cough brought on by a respiratory infection such as the flu or pneumonia.
  • Postnasal Drip: A cough brought on by postnasal drip, in which extra mucus from the nose or sinuses drops down the back of the throat, may also be accompanied by a feeling of mucus or a persistent urge to empty the throat.

Prevention of cough

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after using the lavatory, and after being in public places. By doing this, the transmission of bacteria that can result in respiratory diseases is reduced.
  • Avoid Close Contact with Sick Persons: Since many coughs are contagious, try to avoid close contact with persons with cough or respiratory symptoms. Be considerate and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing if you have a cough.
  • immunizations: To lower the risk of catching certain illnesses that might cause coughing, keep up with prescribed immunizations, such as the flu shot and other vaccines for respiratory infections.
  • Keep Your Environment Clean: Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that are regularly touched, such as doorknobs, light switches, and electronic equipment. By doing this, the spread of germs is reduced.
  • Prevent Smoking: Smoking can irritate the respiratory system and make coughing worse. If you smoke, think about giving it up, and stay away from secondhand smoke since it can also make you cough.
  • Manage Allergies: If you are aware of any allergies, take appropriate action to control them. This may entail recognizing and avoiding triggers, using prescribed allergy medications, and maintaining a clean, allergen-free home.
  • Maintain Good Indoor Air Quality: Make sure your home or place of business has adequate ventilation to lower the amount of airborne irritants or pollutants that can make you cough. If necessary, use air purifiers or filters.
  • Keep Hydrated: Drinking lots of water keeps the airways wet and helps to lessen inflammation, which can cause coughing.
  • Use good respiratory manners by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow to stop the transmission of respiratory droplets. After using tissues, wash your hands carefully and dispose of them properly.
  • Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps support a robust immune system and general respiratory health. This includes frequent exercise, a balanced diet, enough sleep, and stress management.
Prevention of cough

Treatment for cough

  • The underlying reason for a cough determines how to cure it. Following are some broad strategies and treatments that can help treat and manage various coughing conditions:
  • Over-the-Counter Drugs:
  • Cough Suppressants: By preventing the cough reflex, these drugs can help treat a dry, ineffective cough. They are frequently sold as syrup or lozenges.
  • Expectorants: If you are coughing up thick mucus as a result of a productive cough, expectorants can help thin and loosen the mucus so that it is easier to cough up.
  • Drinking enough fluids will help calm coughs and keep the airways moist. Drink a lot of liquids, such as warm broth, tea, or water.
  • Honey: Honey has calming natural characteristics that can ease coughing. To make a relaxing drink, combine it with warm water or herbal tea. Keep in mind that due to the danger of botulism, honey should not be given to children under the age of one.
  • Inhaling steam: Warm, moist air can be inhaled to assist calm irritated airways and aid remove mucus. You can take a hot shower or use a humidifier to generate a steamy atmosphere.
  • Gargling: Gargling with warm salt water can offer momentary comfort if your cough is accompanied by a sore throat.
  • Avoiding Irritants: If environmental irritants like smoking, strong odors, or chemicals cause your cough, try to avoid them.
  • Management of allergies: If allergies are the root of your cough, figuring out which ones to avoid will help you feel better. Nasal sprays or over-the-counter antihistamines may also help.
  • Treating Underlying Conditions: If your cough is caused by an underlying ailment, such as sinusitis, GERD, or asthma, you should treat and manage the condition by taking the proper medications and making adjustments to your lifestyle.
  • Rest and self-care: Getting enough sleep and looking after your needs will help your immune system and speed up your recovery from a cough brought on by an illness or infection.

*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation of your symptoms and appropriate treatment.

Author Information

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Author Contribution: Reviewed by Dr. Ram Reddy, MD – General Physician, and Rajeshwar Rao, Pharm D.

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