Cough: Symptom — Your body's response when something irritates your throat or airways and possible causes of this symptom.
A cough is your body's way of responding when something irritates your throat or airways. An irritant stimulates nerves that send a message to your brain. The brain then tells muscles in your chest and abdomen to push air out of your lungs to force out the irritant.
An occasional cough is normal and healthy. A cough that persists for several weeks or one that brings up discolored or bloody mucus may indicate a condition that needs medical attention.
At times, coughing can be very forceful. Prolonged, vigorous coughing can irritate the lungs and cause even more coughing. It is also exhausting and can cause sleeplessness, dizziness or fainting, headaches, urinary incontinence, vomiting, and even broken ribs.
While an occasional cough is normal, a cough that persists may be a sign of a medical problem.
A cough is considered "acute" if it lasts less than three weeks. It is considered "chronic" if it lasts longer than eight weeks (four weeks in children).
Some causes of coughs include:
Call your doctor if your cough (or your child's cough) doesn't go away after a few weeks or if it also involves any one of these:
Seek emergency care if you or your child is:
Cough medicines usually are used only when cough is an acute condition, causes a lot of discomfort, interferes with sleep and is not associated with any of the potentially worrisome symptoms indicated above. If you use cough medicine, be sure to follow the dosing instructions.
Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are intended to treat the symptoms of coughs and colds, not the underlying disease. Research suggests that these medicines haven't been proved to work any better than inactive medicine (placebo). More important, these medications have potentially serious side effects, including fatal overdoses in children younger than 2 years old.
Don't use over-the-counter medicines, except for fever reducers and pain relievers, to treat coughs and colds in children younger than 6 years old. Also, consider avoiding use of these medicines for children younger than 12 years old.
To ease your cough, try these tips:
October 2nd, 2021