Cough: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Self-Care
What is Cough?
Coughing is a natural reflex action that helps to clear the throat and airways of irritants, mucus, and foreign particles. Tussis (scientific name of cough) is a sudden expulsion of air from the lungs, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound. It can also be caused by various factors, including infections, allergies, asthma, and irritants such as dust or smoke.
What Are the Different Types of Coughs?
All types of coughs are summarised as:
- Dry coughing: A dry cough symptoms are a cough that does not produce any mucus or phlegm. It can also be caused by various factors, including allergies, asthma, or a viral infection.
- Wet cough: A wet cough is a cough that produces mucus or phlegm. It is often a sign of a respiratory infection or a lung disease, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
- Productive cough: A productive cough is a cough that produces mucus or phlegm. It is often a sign of a respiratory infection or a lung disease.
- Non-productive cough: A non-productive cough is a cough that does not produce any mucus or phlegm. It can be caused by various factors, including allergies, asthma, or a viral infection.
Different types of cough have distinct sounds and are related to specific conditions:
- Whooping cough: It is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes severe coughing spells. The coughs are often followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound just as the person gasps for air.
- Chronic cough: It is a cough that lasts for more than eight weeks. It can be caused by various factors, including postnasal drip, asthma, or acid reflux.
- Croup cough: It is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. It often causes a barking cough, hoarseness, and difficulty breathing.
- Asthma cough: It is a chronic lung disease that causes some inflammation and narrowing of the airways. A cough is often a symptom of asthma.
- Smoker’s cough: A smoker’s cough is a cough that is caused by long-term smoking. It is often a sign of lung damage and can be a precursor to more serious conditions.
Signs and symptoms are the physical or subjective indications of an underlying condition or disease. When it comes to coughing, there are a variety of signs and symptoms that may accompany the cough, depending on the underlying cause. Here are some common symptoms associated with coughing:
- Sore throat: It is a common symptom of a cough, particularly if the cough is caused by a respiratory infection.
- Runny nose: A runny nose may occur with a cough, especially if the cause of the cough is a cold or flu.
- Wheezing: It is a high-pitched whistling sound that occurs when air flows through narrowed airways. It is often a symptom of asthma or bronchitis.
- Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath may occur with a cough if the cause of the cough is related to a respiratory condition such as pneumonia or asthma.
- Chest pain: Chest pain may occur with a cough, particularly if the cough is severe or persistent. This could be a sign of some underlying condition, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or even lung cancer.
- Fatigue: It is a common symptom of many respiratory infections that can cause coughing.
- Fever: It is a common symptom of many respiratory infections that can cause coughing.
- Difficulty swallowing: Difficulty swallowing may occur with a cough if the cause of the cough is related to a condition such as GERD or postnasal drip.
- Loss of appetite: Loss of appetite may occur with a cough, particularly if the cough is severe or persistent.
- Night sweats: Night sweats may occur with a cough, particularly if the cause of the cough is related to a respiratory infection.
How is Cough Formed in the Chest?
Coughing can be caused by a variety of factors, including allergies, medical conditions, and irritants.
What Causes Coughing?Here are some common causes of coughing: Allergies that cause cough:
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever): This condition occurs when the immune system overreacts to airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, or pet dander, causing inflammation of the nasal passages, sinuses, and throat, leading to coughing.
- Asthma: It is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and also narrowing of the airways, leading to difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing.
- Allergic bronchitis: This condition occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed due to exposure to allergens, leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
- Allergic reaction to medication: Some medications can cause an allergic reaction that includes coughing as one of the symptoms.
What Causes a Cough at Night?
Medical conditions that cause cough:
- Respiratory infections: Respiratory infections such as colds, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia can cause coughing due to inflammation and mucus production in the airways.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): It is a progressive lung disease that is inclusive of emphysema and chronic bronchitis cough, leading to coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing.
- Lung cancer: Lung cancer can cause a persistent cough that worsens over time.
- Chronic sinusitis: It is a condition that causes inflammation of the sinuses, leading to coughing, nasal congestion, and postnasal drip.
The diagnosis of a cough involves a combination of patient history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing. Here are some of the methods that healthcare professionals use to diagnose the underlying cause of a cough:
- Patient history: The healthcare provider will ask the patient questions about their cough, such as when it started, how often it occurs, whether it is productive or dry, and whether there are any other associated symptoms.
- Physical examination: The healthcare provider will examine the patient’s nose, throat, and lungs to check for signs of inflammation, infection, or obstruction.
- Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray may be used to check for signs of any infection, inflammation, or other abnormalities in the lungs.
- Pulmonary function tests: These tests measure how well the lungs are functioning and can help diagnose conditions such as asthma or COPD.
- Blood tests: They can be used to check for signs of infection or inflammation, as well as to evaluate the function of certain organs, such as the liver and kidneys.
- Sputum culture: A sputum culture involves analyzing a sample of mucus from the lungs to check for signs of infection.
- CT scan: A CT scan can provide detailed images of the lungs and can be used to diagnose conditions such as lung cancer or pulmonary fibrosis.
- Bronchoscopy: This procedure involves using a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end to examine the airways and collect samples for analysis.
What to Take for a Cough?The treatment for a cough depends on the underlying cause of the cough. Here are some general approaches that can be used to treat a cough:
- Treating the underlying cause: If the cough is due to an underlying condition such as a respiratory infection, asthma, or GERD, treating the underlying cause can help alleviate the cough.
- Medications: Depending on the cause of the cough, medications such as cough suppressants, expectorants, bronchodilators, or antibiotics may be used to alleviate the cough and treat the underlying condition.
- Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, avoiding triggers such as allergens or irritants, or using a humidifier can help alleviate a cough.
- Home remedies: Home remedies such as drinking warm liquids, using throat lozenges, or using honey can help alleviate a cough and soothe a sore throat.
- Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be required to treat an underlying condition such as lung cancer or GERD.
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How to Stop a Bad Cough?Self-care measures can help alleviate a cough and promote overall respiratory health. Here are some important measures to consider:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin out mucus and alleviate coughing.
- Use a humidifier: Using a humidifier can help moisten the air and reduce irritation in the throat and lungs.
- Avoid triggers: If your cough is due to allergies or irritants, avoid triggers such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, or certain foods.
- Practice good hygiene: Washing your hands frequently, and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding close contact with others who are sick can help prevent the spread of respiratory infections.
- Get plenty of rest: Resting and getting enough sleep can help support overall respiratory health and promote healing.
- Practice deep breathing and coughing techniques: These techniques can help clear mucus from the lungs and alleviate coughing.
- Consider over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter cough medications such as cough suppressants, expectorants, and throat lozenges can help alleviate coughing and soothe a sore throat.
When to Call the Doctor
When to See Doctor for Cough With Mucus?It is important to call your doctor if you experience a cough that is persistent, severe, or accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- High fever
- Chest pain
- Wheezing or a whistling sound when breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Unintentional weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
When to See a Doctor For a Cough in Adults?Additionally, you should seek medical attention if your cough persists for more than three weeks or if it is accompanied by symptoms such as a sore throat, ear pain, or sinus congestion, as these may be signs of an underlying infection or other condition that requires medical treatment.
How Do I Know If My Cough Is Serious?If you have a chronic condition such as asthma or COPD, it is important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully and to seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen or if you experience new or unusual symptoms.
Ongo Care Support
Ongo Care is a telemedicine platform that offers remote healthcare services, including on-demand medical consultations, virtual visits with healthcare providers, and prescription refills. Here’s how Ongo Care can provide ongoing care support for patients with a cough:
- Convenient access to medical consultations: With Ongo Care, patients can easily schedule on-demand medical consultations with licensed healthcare providers without having to leave their homes. This can be especially helpful for patients with a cough who may be unable or unwilling to visit a healthcare facility in person.
- Virtual visits with healthcare providers: Ongo Care also offers virtual visits with healthcare providers, which can allow patients with a cough to receive ongoing care and support without having to leave their homes. During these visits, healthcare providers can evaluate the patient’s symptoms, provide treatment recommendations, and monitor their progress over time.
- Prescription refills: For patients who require medications to manage their cough, Ongo Care can facilitate prescription refills, making it easy for patients to receive the medications they need without having to visit a pharmacy in person.
- Health monitoring: Ongo Care can also facilitate ongoing health monitoring for patients with a cough, allowing healthcare providers to track the patient’s symptoms, evaluate their progress, and make treatment adjustments as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can Ongo Care provider prescribe cough medicine?
Ongo Care providers can prescribe cough medicine through a virtual consultation after evaluating your symptoms and medical history.
How do I know if my cough is COVID-19?
The only way to know for sure if your cough is due to COVID-19 is to get tested. However, some common symptoms of COVID-19 include coughing, fever, and difficulty breathing.
Is there online cough testing available at Ongo Care?
Ongo Care does not offer online cough testing, but healthcare providers can evaluate your symptoms and recommend appropriate testing if necessary.
What are various related conditions to a cough?
Related conditions to a cough include respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and lung cancer.
Can I get personalized treatment at Ongo Care for my cough-related symptoms?
Yes, Ongo Care offers personalized treatment plans based on a patient’s symptoms, medical history, and other individual factors. Healthcare providers can recommend appropriate treatments and monitor a patient’s progress over time.