Coughing | Causes and Treatments
Coughing | Causes and Treatments
Coughing is a natural defense mechanism employed by the body to get rid of the mucus or any foreign body which may be present in the upper respiratory passage and irritating it. When the cells lining the upper respiratory tract get irritated, they initiate a chain of reactions which culminates with the lungs forcing out the air present in them under high pressure. Coughing can be either voluntary or involuntary.
Causes of Coughing
- Acute Cough: a cough that lasts for three weeks or less is called acute cough.
- Sub-Acute Cough: This cough lasts from three to eight weeks.
- Chronic Cough: a chronic cough persists for more than eight weeks.
Acute Cough can be further sub-classified as:
- Infectious Acute Cough: This type of acute cough can be due to viral infections like common cold, infection of the sinus, acute infection of the bronchi, and pneumonia. Whooping cough is also classified under this category.
- Non-Infectious Acute Cough: This type of cough can be seen in chronic conditions of the lungs like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and allergies due to environmental triggers.
Chronic Cough can be caused by a variety of reasons. Some of the causes behind chronic cough include:
- Irritation by Environmental Triggers: Cigarette smoking is the most common reason for chronic cough. Apart from smoke, other allergens include dust, pollens, industrial chemicals, pollution and low humidity.
- Medical Conditions Affecting the Lungs: These include asthma and COPD. Cancer, sarcoidosis and other diseases of the lungs can also lead to chronic cough. Fluid accumulation in the lungs post congestive cardiac failure can also cause chronic cough.
- Conditions of the Upper Respiratory Tract: These include sinus infection of prolonged duration, chronic post nasal drip, and infections of the ear and throat.
- Conditions Inside the Chest Cavity: Abnormal enlargement of aorta, lymphoma and other cancers within the chest cavity can also lead to chronic cough.
- Gastrointestinal Causes: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a very common but often overlooked cause of chronic cough.
Treatment of Cough
The treatment of cough depends upon its duration, its severity and its underlying cause. In many people, acute cough responds well to over-the-counter cough remedies.
In case of viral infection, antibiotics do not have any role to play. However, if the underlying reason for cough is some bacterial infection, then antibiotics prescribed by a doctor can give relief from the cough.
I case of chronic cough as well, treating the underlying cause is the mainstay of treatment.
If the cough is due to environmental causes, avoiding such triggers may be beneficial. Quitting smoking is the best way to get relief from smokers’ cough. However, getting relief may take some time as the damage to the lungs and airways needs time to repair.
In case of diseases of the lungs or conditions present in the chest cavity which give rise to cough, treatment directed towards these causes will help in providing relief. As the disease conditions heal, the cough is relieved spontaneously.
In case the cough is due to GERD, making necessary changes in the diet and taking antacids may help in treating the cough.