Coughs: Causes, symptoms, and treatments

Cough is a protective reflex that the body uses to keep the respiratory tract clean. It is the body’s natural way of responding to a respiratory irritation.

There are various reasons why we cough, colds are one but also other diseases, cigarette smoke and air pollution can trigger cough. Having a cough is not dangerous in itself, but if the cough is not given for two to three weeks, it may be due to some illness that needs to be treated with antibiotics or other medications.

Why does cough occur?

Coughing is a sign that something has come down the airways, which should not be there, and coughing then becomes a protective reflex. Coughing is not a disease but a symptom and the reasons why we cough are many. Colds or other viral infections are the most common, but other diseases also cause cough. If our airways become irritated by, for example, cigarette smoke or other air pollution, we can start coughing. If you insert the throat, your cough reflex is triggered immediately.

In children, the most common cause of cough is cold, but the problems can also be due to body or RS virus. Since children are often pre-cold in the first years, it is common for them to cough. As the cough is the body’s natural way of responding to respiratory irritation, it should not be unnecessarily suppressed.

Right cough and mucus

Cough may have different character depending on what is causing it. It can be dry, slimy, scaly or peeking. In the case of a cold, it is usually common with right cough or dry cough at the beginning of the infection, then you have a tingling sensation in the throat that gives rise to cough. At night, can be extra painful, which can make it difficult to sleep.

At a later stage of the infection, dry cough usually becomes mucus. The mucus is often sluggish, thick, has a yellow-green color and sounds rustling when coughing. If possible, it is good to cough up the mucus so that you get rid of what irritates the respiratory tract. Mucus cough is aggravated by milk drinks, so you should avoid it if you have mucus in the throat. Otherwise, the mucus can get better by drinking a lot.

Diagnosis of cough

Coughing usually goes by itself, although it may take a few weeks. Coughing itself is not dangerous but sometimes it can be due to some illness that needs to be treated with antibiotics or other medications.

To diagnose, the doctor examines the nose, throat and ears, listens to breathing and also to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. Sometimes blood tests are taken to see if the cough is due to an infection. X-rays can also be helpful to see if there are changes suggestive of pneumonia.

Cough treatment

Since the cough is a symptom and not the actual disease, it is important to find the actual disease to treat, but there are also ways to relieve the cough.

To relieve dry cough for example:

  • Give nasal drops and raise the head end of the bed.
  • Avoid smoky environments.
  • Take cough suppressant medication.

To relieve cough phlegm for example:

  • Drink properly so that the mucus becomes less tough and easier to cough up. Drink warm or lukewarm beverages that clear the throat, but preferably not milk because it is a mucus.

Drinking a lot usually has a good effect, but you don’t think it will help, so there are several non-prescription alternatives of cough suppressant and mucus-free medication at the pharmacy that you can test. Unless the anti-cough medicines help, there are also prescription alternatives.

When to seek care?

If the cough does not get better after two to three weeks and you feel hungry and ill, you should contact the health care center. If, in addition to coughing, you become difficult to breathe, get chest or back pain in deep breaths or if you start to cough up blood – then the care should be contacted immediately.

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