What is Cough?
Cough is one of the most common complaints for clinic visits accounting for as many as 30 million visits to the doctor per year. Acute cough is one of the most common presentations in general practice. Cough in general, is an innate protective reflex characterized by sudden expulsion of air from breathing passage. Acute cough lasts not more than 2-3 weeks beginning suddenly. It can be dry or productive (presence of phlegm/sputum).
It occurs due to infections like common cold, pneumonia, acute bronchitis, COVID-19 etc. But mostly acute coughs are due to the common cold. Other causes include reflux disease, air pollution, airway clearance etc. The type of cough helps in determining the causative illness.
- Acute rhinosinusitis - It is characterized by an inflammation of the lining of the paranasal sinuses and is commonly due to a viral illness if present for less than 10 days, but may be related to bacterial infection if the illness is longer than ten days.
- Pertussis, also known as whooping cough - Characterized by paroxysmal episodes of intense coughing lasting up to several minutes followed by a loud gasp for air. It is an infection of the respiratory tract by Bordetella pertussis.
- Asthma results in hyperresponsiveness to an environmental stimulus and causes inflammation, intermittent airflow obstruction, and bronchial hyperreactivity with constriction of the airways. A cough is induced in these patients as a result of increased mucous secretions with narrowing of the airways.
- Acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD): COPD is a classic triad of chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. When an acute exacerbation occurs, the lung parenchyma becomes inflamed and has increased hyperresponsiveness leading to a constriction of the airways with a subsequent decline in lung function inducing an accumulation of purulent and thick mucus secretions within the bronchioles and alveoli triggering a coughing response.
- Allergic rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal mucosa due to an allergic irritation from the environment. This irritation leads to increased mucus secretion and post-nasal drip which irritates the airways, stimulating a cough.
- Aspiration syndromes: It occurs when the glottis does not close sufficiently during swallowing. This allows for passage of food or fluid particles into the airways, rather than the oesophagus.
Diagnosis is done clinically, severe cases may require an X ray chest and sputum examination among other tests specific for the cause.
The treatment depends on the underlying cause. It is recommended to maintain good hygiene, wash hands before eating, cover mouth and nose with handkerchief while coughing, drink plenty of fluids, warm water gargles etc., to prevent infection and to speed up recovery.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein on request, is not to be taken as a replacement for medical advice or diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. DO NOT SELF MEDICATE. PLEASE CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN FOR PROPER DIAGNOSIS AND PRESCRIPTION.
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