Cough is a type of respiratory reflex caused by the stimulation of stretch receptors in the bronchi and bronchioles in the lungs. This reflex is caused by the body’s attempt to rid itself of foreign particles, irritants, and microbes that have been inhaled. Coughing can be involuntary or voluntary, and is usually accompanied by a sound. Coughing serves to protect the lungs and airways by clearing away irritants, and it is an important part of the body’s defense system against illness.


The most common symptom of a cough is a dry, persistent or productive cough that produces mucus. Other symptoms associated with a cough can include chest pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, fatigue, and fever. A dry, persistent cough often lasts longer than three weeks and can be accompanied by wheezing and difficulty breathing. A productive cough produces mucus, which may be clear or blood-tinged. If the cause of the cough is related to a bacterial or viral infection, there may also be other symptoms such as a sore throat and/or fever.


The known causes of cough include:

  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia
  • Allergies to dust, pet dander, pollen, and other allergens
  • Exposure to irritants like smoke, chemical fumes, and strong odors
  • Heartburn (acid reflux)
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Certain medications
  • Lung cancer
  • Drug abuse
  • Interstitial lung disease

Risk factors

Risk factors for a cough include:

  1. Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.
  2. Allergies, especially to dust, pet dander, or pollen.
  3. Respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu, pneumonia, or bronchitis.
  4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.
  5. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  6. Exposure to environmental irritants, such as odors, smog, or chemicals.
  7. Common medications, such as some over-the-counter cold medicines.
  8. Airway disorders or structural abnormalities of the lungs.
  9. Exposure to cold temperatures.
  10. 0. Use of ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure.


Cough is often diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms and history. A doctor may ask a patient a series of questions to determine the cause, such as how long they have been coughing, if they have any other symptoms, or if they have been exposed to any potential irritants. In some cases, a doctor may need to order additional tests to determine the cause, such as a chest x-ray or pulmonary function test. In more serious cases, a doctor may order scans, biopsies, or other tests to rule out more serious conditions.


The various subtypes of coughs can generally be divided into two main categories: acute and chronic.

Acute coughs are those that usually last less than three weeks and are usually caused by a common cold or other viral infection. They can also be caused by allergies or other irritants like environmental pollution. These types of coughs can be dry or productive, and commonly produce a phlegmy or mucus-like substance. Cough suppressants and expectorants are often used to treat acute coughs, depending on the underlying cause.

Chronic coughs last longer than three weeks and can commonly be caused by conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or reflux. These types of coughs are usually productive and can produce a variety of different substances. Treatment for a chronic cough usually involves management of the underlying cause and can include inhaled medications, antibiotics, or even surgery.


The treatment options for cough depend on the underlying cause. Some treatment options that may be recommended by your doctor include:

  1. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as cough suppressants, expectorants, and decongestants.
  2. Prescription medications such as antibiotics for bacterial infections and inhaled steroids for post-nasal drip.
  3. Home remedies such as steam inhalation, nasal irrigation, and warm beverages.
  4. Exercises such as breathing exercises to help manage the symptoms.
  5. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke, getting adequate rest, avoiding airborne irritants and allergens, and staying hydrated.


There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of cough:

  1. Avoid smoking or being around others who are smoking.
  2. Stay away from air pollution, such as fumes from cars or factory work.
  3. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
  4. Take measures to reduce stress, such as yoga or deep breathing.
  5. Use a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air.
  6. Seek medical attention if you develop a fever or severe cough.
  7. Get a flu shot as soon as possible.
  8. Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold or other respiratory infection.
  9. Make sure to get enough rest and eat nutritious foods.
  10. 0. Drink plenty of fluids and use cough drops or lozenges to soothe your throat.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of Cough. Women tend to have more frequent and severe episodes of cough than men, likely due to their anatomic and physiologic differences. Furthermore, women may also be more likely to present with a cough that is caused by a non-respiratory condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or asthma. Women may be more likely to present with a persistent and persistent coughing and phlegm production, which can be more difficult to manage since the underlying cause may be difficult to diagnose. Furthermore, women may be more likely to seek medical attention for a cough, likely due to the associated psychosocial effects of having a chronic cough. Finally, women may also be more likely to take cough medications, as they are more likely to be proactive in seeking relief from bothersome symptoms, such as cough.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of cough. Eating a well-balanced diet is important for maintaining good physical health, which in turn helps to boost the immune system. A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins is especially important for individuals with a cough, as these nutrient-dense foods provide the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants necessary for a healthy immune system. Additionally, drinking plenty of fluids helps to thin mucus and reduce congestion, making it easier for the body to expel fluid buildup in the lungs and throat. In some cases, a doctor may recommend consuming specific foods such as honey, lemon, and other natural remedies to reduce the severity of a cough. Ultimately, good nutrition is essential for the maintenance of good physical health and proper immune system functioning, which is critical for proper management of a cough.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can affect coughing in several ways. First, if someone engages in strenuous physical activity that increases their breathing rate, the increased rate can cause them to cough, especially if they have an existing respiratory condition such as asthma. Another way physical activity can affect coughing is by irritating an existing cough. If someone has a cough due to an underlying medical condition and they engage in physical activity that increases their breathing rate, it can cause more coughing. Finally, physical activity can affect coughing by irritating the airways, resulting in a dry throat and increased coughing.

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