An occasional light cough can be normal and healthy. If you are coughing continuously for several weeks or if you cough up mucus that is discolored or bloody this means there is something causing you to cough and you would better seek a medical attention as soon as possible. A cough is basically your body trying to get rid of something that is irritating your airways or throat.
When should you see a doctor:
o Persistent cough that lasts for a few weeks.
o Coughing up greenish thick phlegm. Especially if it is foul smelling
o The cough is associated with wheezing
o Experiencing fever, more than 38 C
o The cough is associated with shortness of breath
Some tips to ease your cough:
o Cough drops or hard candies. Use these only for dry cough. It is better not to suppress wet cough because it is actually removing the extra mucus and maybe some of the irritants.
o Drink a lot of fluids. This helps thin the mucus and makes it easier to cough up.
o Moisturize the air. Take a hot, steamy shower. One trick I used to do is to drink a big hot cop of milk while trying to breath the steam going out of the cop.
Common causes of new cough (less than 3 weeks)
o Influenza (flu)
o Common cold
o Whooping cough
Common causes of chronic persistent cough
o Bronchitis. Is an inflammation of the airways often caused by a respiratory infection, acute bronchitis is very common and usually present with cough, production of clear or yellow-green mucus, fatigue, and fever. Usually acute bronchitis lasts for 1-2 weeks but the cough may last for several weeks after bronchitis is resolved; this is called reactive bronchitis which is basically a temporary airway contraction that usually resolves on its own.
o Allergies. This condition is caused by immune system reaction to an outside substance such as pet dander or pollen.
o GERD. Cause chronic cough especially at night. Exacerbated by lying down after large meal. The reason for this is that some of the stomach contents go up and activate cough producing receptors in the through.
o Postnasal. In this condition the mucus from your nose is going backwards into your throat instead of going out of your nostrils. It presents with an annoying feeling that you always need to clear your throat, cough also gets worse at night the same as for GERD.
o Acute or chronic sinusitis. Inflammatin and swelling of the cavities around your nose called sinuses. This inflammation decreases the drainage of the mucus out of the nose and causes it to build up and blocks the air passage.
o Heart failure
o Lung cancer
o Side effect to prescribed medications. Especially ACE inhibitors.
Severe prolonged coughing can cause headaches, urinary incontinence, eye problems, and rarely broken ribs.
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