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Cough

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Cough is an instinctive reflex of the human body. It is developed during the early stages of life. A normal baby would develop a reflex called a coughing reflex and he or she will have this reflex for the rest of his or her life.

The purpose of the coughing reflex is to remove any foreign substances in the body specifically in the air passages. Once the foreign substances irritate the passageway of air, cough occurs as a reaction to remove the source of the irritation. A good example of this is the build up of phlegm in the trachea. Another example of this is when a person eats or drinks and the substance, instead of going to the esophagus, goes into the trachea. The normal reaction would be to cough out the eaten or drank substance.

COUGH SYMPTOMS

Contrary to what most people think, cough is actually not an illness but a symptom of an illness, an irritation or an abnormality in the body specifically in a person's respiratory tract. It is possible that the coughing can be relieved temporarily but for as long as the causative agent of the illness or irritation is there, cough will occur again and again.

Cough can be classified into two categories – acute cough and chronic cough. The basis for classifying whether a cough is acute or chronic is the length of time that a person has been suffering from it. A cough can be considered acute if the duration of the cough is 3 weeks or less. But if the cough exceeds the duration of more than three weeks then it is considered as a chronic cough. Acute cough and chronic cough are indications of several illnesses.

An acute cough may be an indication that the person may be suffering from the common cold, whooping cough (pertussis), an exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and allergies. Chronic cough on the other hand may be an indication of asthma, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), post-nasal drip, eosinophilic bronchitis, effect of medicine such as ACE inhibitors and an effect of chronic smoking.

Basically the symptom of cough is the forceful releasing of air from the lungs which is accompanied by a distinctive sound. But can also be indicated by several other symptoms. Some of these symptoms are production of sputum/ phlegm, post-tussive syncope (fainting or lowering of blood pressure after coughing), post-tussive emesis (coughing accompanied by vomiting), chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing sounds when deep breathing, chills, night sweats, runny nose, and difficulty in breathing. These are the symptoms of cough. Signs of cough on the other hand are those indications that are not apparent to the patient but can be medically observed by the physician.
cough
Image: Cough

COUGH CAUSES

Cough, whether acute or chronic, can also be indicated along with other medical conditions. If a person has these following illnesses, he or she will most likely experience coughing:
 Common Cold – if a person is said to have the common cold, then chances are he or she will also experience coughing.

 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – a person diagnosed suffering from COPD will also be experiencing cough.
 Pertussis (Whooping Cough) – people with whooping cough will experience severe episodes of coughing. Sometime the coughing will also be accompanied by vomiting.
 Allergies / Irritations – substances that cause irritation and allergies like dust and pollen can also cause a person to experience coughing.
 Medications – medications such as ACE inhibitors can cause coughing. Even if the medication is stopped, episodes of coughing may still continue for another four weeks.
 Smoking – it causes irritation to the whole upper respiratory tract as well as the lower respiratory tract. A smoker, especially a chronic smoker, is prone to having episodes of coughing.
 Asthma – another indication for cough is asthma. In fact, it is the second most common cause of chronic cough.
 Post-Nasal Drip – post nasal drips can also cause coughing. The illness itself may be caused by an infection which should be treated to eradicate the illness as well as the coughing.
 Bronchitis – a person with bronchitis is also predisposed to experiencing episodes of coughing.

COUGH TREATMENT

The treatment of cough will differ from person to person depending on his or her condition and the probable predisposing factors that may have caused the cough. Basically cough can be treated and relieved and this is what physicians usually do especially in cases of violent coughing. This is done to prevent irritation and scratch wounds on the respiratory tract.

If a patient is experiencing dry cough (non productive cough) then he or she will be given anti-tussive medications as well as advice to increase the oral fluid intake. For productive coughs (phlegm production), the patient will be given expectorants as well as advised to drink plenty of fluids.


Of course it is possible that the cough will only be relieved for a short period of time. Unless the main cause of the cough is eradicated, the cough will come back and come back again. This is true especially to those who are suffering from serious kinds of respiratory illnesses. In these cases, the best thing to do is to continuously take the cough medications along with the medications of the respiratory illness. Cough can never be prevented. It is a natural reflex of the body that serves as protection for the upper respiratory tract. There will really be times that you will have to cough because of irritation or presence of foreign substances in the respiratory tract.

COUGH PREVENTION

But coughing caused by illnesses can be prevented. It is of utmost importance that you should have a healthy lifestyle – have a good and balanced diet, refrain from smoking, and be well rested. For people who are predisposed to respiratory illnesses through heredity like asthma, you can refrain from doing strenuous activities as well as to stay away from allergens that can trigger the illness. The key to preventing cough is to take good care of your body.
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