ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Causes And Treatment Of Cough

Updated on October 22, 2011

Coughing is a reflex action started by stimulation of sensory nerves in the lining of the respiratory passages - the tubes we use to breathe.

When a person coughs, there is a short intake of breath and the larynx (the voice box) closes momentarily. The abdominal and chest muscles used for breathing contract, which in turn increases the pressure needed to drive air out the lungs when the larynx re-opens. The resulting blast of air comes out at high speed, scrubbing and clearing the airway of dust, dirt or excessive secretions. Cough is a common symptom when the airways are ‘tight', as in asthma.

The cough reflex is a vital part of the body's defense mechanisms. Normally, the lungs and the lower respiratory passages are sterile. If dust or dirt gets into the lungs, they could become a breeding ground for bacteria and cause pneumonia or infection in the breathing tubes.

What causes cough?

Cough usually means there is something in the respiratory passage that should not be there. This can be caused by breathing in dust particles in the air or when a piece of food goes down the wrong way. It could also be a sign that an infection in the lungs is making the respiratory passages produce phlegm.

Cough can be provoked by:

  • The common cold, which is a frequent cause of acute cough that usually settles in less than three weeks.
  • Sucking material into the breathing tubes from your mouth.
  • More severe illnesses, such as pneumonia, acute heart failure or pulmonary embolism (a clot in the blood vessels of the lung).
  • Smoking, which often causes chronic cough (smoker's lung).
  • Asthma - particularly in children who may only cough and show no wheezing.
  • Stomach acid coming back up the gullet and spilling over into the windpipe (gastro-oesophageal reflux).
  • Bacterial or viral infections in the lungs, e.g. acute bronchitis, pneumonia, whopping cough, etc.

Coughing is more efficient when preceded by a full intake of air. For this reason, patients with weak muscles, poor coordination of airway closure and re-opening, or who have airflow obstruction will have a poor cough and be susceptible to complications including infection in the lower respiratory tract and pneumonia.

How can cough be treated?

Cough is a symptom, not a disease. It is the underlying cause of the cough that needs to be treated. A physician must be consulted if any of the following symptoms accompany a cough, so that possible underlying causes can be investigated and treated where necessary:

  • Coughing up phlegm that is green, rusty brown, yellow, bloodstained or foul smelling.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • Pain and swelling in the calf.
  • Recurrent nighttime cough.
  • Whopping cough.
  • Worsening smoker's cough.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Fever and sweating.

If one can't cough but needs to, problems soon arise, especially, when coughing is painful (for example, because of a broken rib), patients try not to cough and this can be dangerous.

Ineffective clearance of the airway can lead to a chest infection and possible pneumonia. In these circumstances, pain-relieving medicine can be useful to permit an efficient cough.

Airways infection

Both bacteria and viruses can cause infections in the breathing tubes, although the most common cause in children is a virus. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, but viral infections cannot.

Asthma

Asthma may cause coughing without wheezing. This tends to be worst through the night, disturbing sleep. It may be the first sign of asthma in children, or a warning sign that asthma is worsening or not controlled properly. Conventional asthma treatment with inhaled anti-inflammatory preventative medicines and relievers will usually relieve a cough that is due to asthma.

Smoking

Giving up cigarettes will lessen or abolish smokers' cough in 94 per cent of people within four weeks.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)