Coughing is a common reflex action that is a response to irritation in your throat or airway. It is a normal reaction of your body to make breathing easier.
Infrequent coughing, like clearing the throat, is entirely normal but may increase when your throat is irritated.
Sustained coughing can be the result of a number of conditions, such as allergies, asthma, environmental exposures, and viral or bacterial infections.
Viruses and bacteria:
The most common cause of a cough is a respiratory tract infection, such as a cold or the flu.
A common cause of coughing in young children is asthma.
Other conditions that may cause a cough include:
You should contact a doctor if:
Seek immediate emergency medical attention if:
If additional symptoms develop, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms to watch out for include:
In addition to learning how to treat a cough, you might want to learn how to prevent it in the first place.
To protect against flu, make sure you get your annual flu shot, usually starting in September or October.
Other steps you can take include:
With allergies, you can reduce flare ups by identifying the allergens that affect you and avoiding exposure to them. Common allergens include trees, pollen, dust mites, animal fur, mold, and insects.
In severe cases, allergy shots may be helpful as well and can reduce your sensitivity to allergens.
Talk to your doctor about what plan is right for you.
Coughs can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the cause.
For healthy adults, most treatments will involve self-care:
Some coughs will require medical care:
If your doctor can’t find a cause for your cough, they may order additional tests.
This could include:
Difficult cases may require additional testing:
Most coughs are harmless and go away on their own, but if yours lasts for over a week or you have difficulty breathing, please see a doctor.
You can come into any Patient First center from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. any day of the week - no appointment needed.
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