Have you ever experienced that nagging cough that won’t seem to go away?
Several minutes of coughing may be caused by food or drinks that went down the wrong pipe. Coughing that lasts about a day or more may lead you to think that you’ve caught the flu. If it still doesn’t go away a week later, allergies and bronchitis may be the culprit.
What if it lasts for three weeks up to a full month? In this case, your mind is probably already racing to worst-case scenarios like cancer and tuberculosis. But are these diseases the most common causes of persistent coughing?
This article discusses seven quick facts about chronic cough that you can use to determine its potential cause, which could help with the proper diagnosis and treatment.
A cough starts with a gasp.
Coughing is a natural bodily reflex that signifies a lot of things. Understanding how cough works can help you understand what triggers it and how you can make it stop.
A cough begins with a gasp that draws air and transports it deep into the lungs. After that, the glottis – the region in the larynx that comprises the vocal cords and affects a person’s ability to modulate his voice – closes and covers the windpipe.
Then, the muscles of the abdomen, chest cage, and the diaphragm (which usually push air gently from the lungs to the mouth and nose under normal circumstances) create a forceful contraction while the glottis is closed. At this point, the pressure from the release of air forces the glottis open and causes the vigorous whooping or barking noise that is called a “cough.”
A chronic cough may be caused by irritated airways.
Irritation of the airways is the most common cause of chronic cough. Doctors explain that this may be because of viral infections or the aftermath of common colds. While most symptoms of colds often go away several days from the onset, cough tends to linger longer because the colds and infection left the airways overly sensitive and swollen.
Your cough may not be just a cough.
As mentioned earlier, coughing is a reflex and not an illness itself. In fact, there are instances wherein you may think you have a cough, but it is not actually a cough.
Some medical conditions like asthma or allergies cause coughing. In many cases, people discover that they have either of these conditions when they seek medical help for cough that they thought were caused by common colds and flu.
In the absence of these conditions, the doctor may also consider looking at non-respiratory issues like acid reflux and sleep apnea. These two also cause a persistent cough. Luckily, they can easily be treated after proper diagnosis.
Coughing is helpful for the body.
While coughing may cause discomfort, it actually helps the body get rid of foreign particles and mucus to clear the airways. It is also the body’s response to illness and inflammation which, in a sense, acts as a sign doctors look for to administer proper illness treatment.
Stress can cause a persistent cough.
Stress causes and aggravates a lot of medical conditions, and a cough is not an exception. When you experience chronic cough, there is a good chance that it will last longer if you’re under a lot of stress. This is also the reason why people who refuse to rest and slow down while they are sick tend to suffer from cough longer than when they get enough rest.
Lack of fluids leads to that nagging cough.
Doctors often advise their patients to drink plenty of fluids when suffering from colds and flu. This is because water and other liquids (except alcohol and caffeinated drinks) help loosen the mucus that irritates the airways and make it easier to cough out. Because of this, people who don’t follow this advice often end up with a lingering cough.
Overusing OTC nasal decongestant sprays can cause lingering cough.
Nasal decongestant sprays offer quick relief from a stuffy nose, but using them too often can cause persistent coughing. These over-the-counter remedies should not be used for more than three days; otherwise, you’ll end up with worse symptoms. This rebound effect causes the nasal membranes to swell which, inadvertently, triggers more coughing, congestion, and postnasal drip.
Know Your Facts About Cough
Understanding coughs is a worthy goal as it would help you understand how the reflex works, what causes it, and how cough can be effectively treated. While coughing is initially good for removing foreign particles from the airways, there is still a downside to coughing too much – an irritated or swollen throat. This is why arming yourself with the right information can help you achieve relief the right way.