The cough is a sudden and often repetitively occurring reflex which helps to clear the large breathing passages from secretions, irritants, foreign particles and microbes. The cough reflex consists of three phases
- An inhalation
- A forced exhalation against a closed glottis
- A violent release of air from the lungs following the opening of the glottis, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound.
Cough can be either voluntary or involuntary. Frequent coughing usually indicates the presence of a disease. Coughing can be due to respiratory tract infection and can also be triggered by:
- Air pollution
- Gastro esophageal reflux disease(GERD)
- Post-nasal drip
- Chronic bronchitis
- lung tumors
- Heart failure and medications such as ACE inhibitors.
- Acute cough: It begins suddenly and can be caused due to sinus, flu or sinus infection.
- Sub acute cough: It lasts for 3-8 weeks
- Chronic Cough: It lasts longer than 8 weeks.
Acute cough: It is caused due to respiratory tract infection caused by a virus. Conditions like influenza (flu), laryngitis and common cold which mostly occur in upper tract infections. Conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia in case of lower tract infections.
Chronic cough: Persistent cough can be due to :
- Gastro-esophageal reflux
- Post natal drip (mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose, caused by a condition such as rhinitis).
- Respiratory tract infections like bronchitis or whooping cough.
If the cough persists for more than one week. It is advised to visit doctor.
Diagnostic tests An examination of the mucus from nose or throat. This test can show whether it is bacterial infection.
A chest x ray: A chest x ray takes a picture of the heart and lungs. This test can help diagnose conditions such as pneumonia and lung cancer.
Lung function tests:These tests measure how much air one breathes in and out, how fast one can breathe air out. Lung function tests can help diagnose asthma and other conditions.
Cough can generally be treated by treating the symptoms associated with it.
Decongestants: Decongestants relieve nasal congestion by shrinking swollen nasal tissue and reducing mucus production.
Cough suppressants and expectorants: Cough suppressant such as dextromethorphan, found in Delsym, DexAlone. In case of home remedy lemon and honey is very effective for acute cough.