Cough and cold
Causes & risk factors
Right from common cold and flu to COPD, cough is one of the key symptoms that help in diagnosing the disease. Here are some of the common causes of a cough --
Common cold and flu: With sudden changes in the temperature your chances of suffering from a cough and cold is highest. Also, viral infections like flu make you vulnerable to a cough.
Allergies: If you are allergic to pollen or dust, one of the symptoms that you might experience is a cough. Also, some environmental pollutants and food items you are allergic to might cause coughing.
Respiratory illness: It goes without saying that if you suffer from various respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, coughing is the main symptom.
Lung infections: Conditions like pneumonia and acute bronchitis are associated with a persistent cough and hence, require immediate medical attention to deal with the problem. Even lung cancer and interstitial lung disease also cause coughing in most cases.
Sinus infection: In some cases of a sinus infection where you might also experience postnasal drip, the chances of coughing is more. And thus, the need to get yourself treated for sinusitis and post nasal drip is mandatory.
Medications: Not only diseases, even drugs such as ACE inhibitors that are commonly used to treat hypertension, kidney disease and heart failure also cause a cough.
Smoking: It affects the mucosal lining present in the throat and thus causes excessive dryness and irritation. Also, when you start to inhale the smoke (exposure to second-hand smoke) the cells along the bronchioles get damaged making you vulnerable to coughing. Before you smoke, know about these 25 things that happen inside your body when you smoke.
Here is a detailed explanation on the common causes of a cough.
A cough is not a mere term (as most of us believe) but can be broadly classified into three main types namely --
Dry Cough: If there is no production of sputum (a mucus-like secretion) when you cough, it is known as a dry cough. It can be caused due to an allergic reaction, a sore throat or asthma.
Productive cough: Also known as a wet cough, in this the person produces phlegm (called as ‘balgam’ in Hindi) while coughing. The factors such as smoking, viral or bacterial infections and pneumonia mainly cause this type of a cough.
Allergic Cough: As the name suggests, coughing caused due to an allergen is known as an allergic cough. The allergens can be dust mites, inhalants, pollutants and chemical fumes or gases that most of you come across daily. Read about 10 things in your home and office which might be aggravating your cough.
It can be further divided depending upon its severity as --
Acute cough -- If the cough is caused suddenly and lasts not more than three weeks, it is known as acute cough.
Sub-acute cough -- Cough that is present for more than three to eight weeks is called sub-acute cough.
Chronic cough -- When the cough lasts for more than 8 weeks, you are suffering from a chronic cough. It is commonly seen in case of respiratory disease like asthma and chronic bronchitis.
As cough is a symptom and not a disease, diagnosing it is very simple. However, to determine the exact cause of the cough or the underlying disease your doctor might recommend some tests. Here is what your doctor is most likely to do on your visit.
- Listen to the sound of the cough.
- Listen to the chest sounds to determine congestion of chestwith the help of stethoscope
- Check your throat for any infection or inflammation
Once this is done, your doctor might order a chest X-ray only to rule out any disease or condition responsible for a cough.
Depending upon the severity, the type and the cause of the cough, the treatment option is determined. Drugs that are commonly used to treat cough include --
Antitussives or cough Suppresants: If you have a dry, hacking cough, consider taking effective cough suppressants. They are available in the form of lozenges and cough syrups. Don't suppress a productive cough too much, unless it is very troublesome.
Expectorants: Commonly used in productive cough. These act by loosening up the mucus and thus, help in expelling the sputum or phlegm from the mouth. They are available in the form of tablets and cough syrups.
Bronchodilators: They are prescribed to relax the airways caused due to blockage by a cough. People suffering from asthma are usually prescribed these medications that can be availed in the inhaled forms or tablets and even injections (mostly used if the condition worsens).
Antibiotics: If the cough is caused due to a bacterial infection, then antibiotics are commonly prescribed.
Anti-histamines: These are recommended if the cough is caused due to an allergic reaction to a specific food, drug or any allergen.
Mucolytic agents: These are drugs that cause the breakdown of the mucus and thus, aid in relieving a cough. They can be prescribed with or without a bronchodilator.
Nebulizer: It is commonly recommended for people suffering from asthma.
Decongestants: In case of a runny nose associated with a cough, decongestants are a preferred option to provide relief.
Steroids: If the cough is due to inflammation in the airways, steroids can also be helpful in treating the condition.
Steam inhalation: A quick and most widely used home remedy to treat a cough is steam inhalation. It moistens the airways and thus, provides relief from a cough.
Here’s everything you need to know about common cough terms.
Some of the common home remedies that help you to deal with cough include -
- Ginger tea
- Turmeric milk (Haldidoodh)
- Holy basil leaves (Tulsi leaves)
- Lemon tea
Here is how to use these home remedies to fight cough and cold.
You cannot prevent a cough, but you can lower your risk by following these tips:
- Always wash your hands after coming from outside
- Avoid contact with people suffering from flu or cold
- If you smoke, then quit smoking
- Avoid exposure to passive smoking (both at home and office)
- Increase your fluid intake as it helps in thinning of the mucus
- Get yourself vaccinated for flu, pneumonia, etc. to prevent a cough
The content has been verified by Dr.Sandeep Nayar, HOD Department of Respiratory Medicine, Allergy & Sleep Disorders, BLK Super Speciality Hospital.