What is a cough?
When it comes to cold and flu symptoms, nothing is worse than having a bad cough. And while it’s easy to know when you’ve got one, you might be wondering: What is a cough exactly? A cough is a natural reflex your body produces to protect your lungs. Coughing helps clear your airways of lung irritants (like mucus), which can help stave off infections.
Coughs are never any fun, but what you may not realize is that there are different types of coughs. A cough can either be dry or wet (sometimes people refer to wet coughs as ‘chesty’), and either productive (one that produces mucus) or nonproductive (one that does not produce mucus). Chesty coughs are usually productive while dry coughs are usually unproductive.
It is not associated with excessive mucus and is likely the result of some irritation. Dry coughs can be treated with cough suppressants, like dextromethorphan.
It can be both productive and unproductive. It’s caused by excessive mucus in the lungs and airways, and you may have difficulty expectorating (coughing up) the mucus to clear the airway passages. Chesty coughs are sometimes treated with an expectorant called guaifenesin. This will help thin the mucus and make your cough more productive. Dextromethorphan is often in combination with guaifenesin to help calm the cough.
What causes a cough?
There are many things that could cause a cough. Typically, coughing occurs when the nerve endings in your airways become irritated. This could be due to a viral infection resulting in the cold or flu. When foreign invaders enter your airways, the body reflexively responds with a cough to clear your airways and protect your lungs.
How long does a cough last?
The length of your cough primarily depends on the causes of your cough. An acute cough (one that’s caused by the common cold or an upper respiratory infection) should last less than three weeks. If your cough lasts more than 7 days, comes back or occurs with fever, rash or headache that lasts, you should call your doctor.
How can I treat a cough?