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Cough: Causes, Preventive Measures & Diagnosis

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Cough is a natural reflex. The irritants present in your throat or lungs can go out of the body through it. Through coughing, your body repairs and protects itself. Most of the time, we cough to clear our throat but certain conditions can result in frequent coughing. 

Most of the coughing conditions will improve after 2 weeks. But you need medical attention if the cough persists for a longer duration. Also, you should seek a doctor's advice immediately if you notice some blood or a "barking" cough. 

Different Causes of Coughing

There are several reasons for coughing; let's discuss them one by one.

Need to Clear Your Throat

Usually, coughing happens when our body wants to clear our throat. It is a reflexive reaction to clear mucus or dust particles from our airways. This allows us to breathe easily.

Such coughing is infrequent. However, it may increase if smoke particles surround you.

Virus

Cold and flu are the common causes of cough. It happens because of respiratory tract infections. Such infections usually last for 1 or 2 weeks. If you have started taking antiviral medications within 2 days of infection, you will likely recover from the cough soon.

Smoking

It is also a common cause of coughing. Smoking results in chronic cough with a distinct sound. It is also called a smoker's cough.

Asthma

Coughing is common among young children who have asthma. Such a type of coughing involves wheezing, which makes it easy to identify.

Asthma patients are usually treated through medications delivered through inhalers or nebulizers. Most children outgrow asthma conditions as they grow older.

Other Conditions

Some more causes which can result in cough include:

  • Vocal cord damage
  • Bacterial infections like whooping cough, pneumonia, and croup.
  • Severe conditions like heart failure and pulmonary embolism.
  •  

Types of Diagnosis For Cough

If your doctor is unable to find out the exact cause of the cough, then there are specific diagnostic tests which include:

  • Chest X-ray: Through this X-ray, your doctor can know whether your lungs are clear.
  • Allergy test: Blood and skin tests are done to know about any allergic response.
  • Mucus analysis: This test can let your doctor know any sign of bacteria or tuberculosis.

It is very rare to have any cough related to heart problems, but your doctor may suggest an echocardiogram to check the functioning of your heart.

In case of any complexity, the below tests may be required:

  • CT Scan: Through this test, your doctor will know more about the chest and airways.
  • Esophageal pH monitoring: If nothing gets clear with a CT scan, your doctor may refer you to a lung specialist to perform Esophageal pH monitoring.

Different Types of Cough Treatment

Based on the cause of the cough, there are various treatments available. Many people believe in home remedies to treat coughs.

Home Remedies

If you have a cough because of the virus, it can't be treated with antibiotics. You can get relief with the below-mentioned home remedies

  • Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated
  • Take an extra pillow to elevate your body while sleeping.
  • Use cough drops 
  • Give relief to your throat with a saltwater gargle. It will remove mucus from your body.
  • Add honey and ginger to hot tea to clear your airway.

Medical Care

In medical care, your doctor will look down your throat, listen to the cough sound and ask about the patient's symptoms. Your doctor will provide some oral medications if the cough is because of a bacterial infection.

Dry Cough Treatment

A dry cough can make you feel uncomfortable. There are various medications available that you can easily get from the drugstore for curing dry cough.

Decongestants

It is an OTC medication for dry cough. It can clear congestion in the sinuses and nose. When you come in contact with a virus, your nose lining swells and blocks the air passage. Decongestants constrict blood vessels. They minimize blood flow to the swollen tissue. This process eases breathing. There are many decongestants available in the market, the most common among them are:

  • Oxymetazoline (Afrin)
  • Pseudoephedrine (Sudated)
  • Phenylephrine (Neo- synephrine)

What Will Happen If The Cough is Left Untreated?

Usually, even if you don't treat your cough, you will get relief after 1 or 2 weeks. The cough doesn't cause any severe damage to the body. But in some cases, the cough may lead to some temporary complications like:

All the above symptoms are rare. They will stop when your cough disappears.

How to Prevent Cough?

Although at some point, a cough is necessary to clear your airways. But if you are getting a cough frequently, you can prevent such a condition.

Quit Smoking

Smoking can lead to chronic cough. It is difficult to cure such cough conditions. The only option to get rid of such a cough is to quit smoking. After quitting smoking, you have fewer chances of getting a chronic cough.

Dietary Changes

As per the research, if you include more fiber-rich fruits in your diet, it will free you from chronic respiratory problems like cough and phlegm. Also, if you have Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you should avoid eating at least 3 hours before bedtime. If you are facing issues in adjusting your diet, you can take help from a dietitian.

Medical Conditions

Keep distance from bronchitis patients. It will lessen your chances of catching the infection. Do frequent hand washing and never share your pillow, towel, or utensil with the patient.  

When is The Emergency Condition?

Below are some of the symptoms which need immediate medical attention.

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Tightness or heaviness in the chest
  • Bluish lips
  • Confusion

How to Prevent Cough Transmission?

Let's know about a few habits through which you can prevent cough transmission:

Maintain good hygiene: You must wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. If you don't have soap, you can use a hand sanitizer containing 60% alcohol.

Cover Your Cough: Never cough on your hands. You can use tissue paper or your elbow.

Avoid Touching Your Nose, Eyes, and Mouth: All these body organs are easy points for bacterial entry. This may further increase the infection.

Follow Social Distancing: You must maintain a safe distance of at least 6 feet from others, especially in public places.

Self-Quarantine: In case you have cough or flu symptoms, you should stay at home. 

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