Cough works to expel foreign particles and irritants from the airways and throat. Although it is a symptom that usually sends patients to doctors’ clinics, it is still helpful not to repress this reaction so that the body can get rid of the irritants in the airways naturally.
There are dozens of reasons why people cough. From common colds to acid reflux, these underlying causes should be the focus of treatment rather than the symptom itself. To deal with it properly, here are six of the most common causes of cough that you should learn about, categorized according to chronic and acute symptoms:
Cough can be classified according to its severity and frequency. Those that last over eight weeks are referred to as chronic cough. Below are four of the most typical causes of this type of cough:
Asthma is one of the most common causes of chronic cough in adults. Aside from coughing, it is also signaled by shortness of breath and wheezing. In some cases, however, cough is the only observable symptom of asthma.
Cough related to this medical condition may sometimes be seasonal. In other cases, it follows an upper respiratory tract infection or is triggered by exposure to fumes, fragrances, and even cold and dry air.
2. Post-Nasal Drip
Post-nasal drip encompasses the flow of mucus from the nose to the back of the throat. It occurs when mucus is produced to alleviate dryness or as a reaction to infection.
Post-nasal drip leads to coughing because the mucus can irritate the throat. When the mucus flows down, it causes the part of the brain responsible for controlling the cough reflex to flip the switch. This is often what happens with people who suffer from common colds, sinusitis, and allergies.
Aside from coughing, other symptoms of post-nasal drip include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Liquid gathering along the back of the throat
- The frequent need to clear your throat
3. Acid Reflux
In some cases, cough isn’t triggered by viruses or bacteria. Many patients who report coughing as a symptom discover that they are actually suffering from a condition involving the digestive system called gastroesophageal reflux disorder or GERD.
GERD, also known as acid reflux, is characterized by the flowing of stomach acid up to the esophagus, which directly links the stomach to the throat. When acid backs up, the throat is irritated, thus, triggering the cough reflex.
Aside from incessant coughing, many people suffering from acid reflux also experience heartburn or taste sour fluid in their mouth. However, there are some who only experience cough as a symptom, which may be why it can be difficult to determine whether you are suffering from GERD without the help of a physician.
4. Respiratory Tract Infection
Cough that occurs longer than eight weeks may also be caused by tract infection along the upper respiratory region. Often, chronic cough follows an infection and can be treated with remedies designed to alleviate cough-variant asthma or post-nasal drip.
If the cough is present for three weeks or less, it can be considered acute. Acute cough usually occurs for various reasons, including:
5. Allergic Rhinitis
Exposure to allergens causes the body to produce a chemical called histamine, a natural substance that acts to defend the body from foreign irritants. It is the chemical that triggers allergic rhinitis and brings about symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, and coughing.
Some of the most common allergens include animal dander (old skin that pets shed when they scratch), dust mites, pollen, and mold. Also, people with asthma and atopic eczema have a higher risk of suffering from allergic rhinitis than those who don’t.
6. Common Colds
Common colds affect the upper respiratory tract, which comprises the throat and the nose. It often comes with flu-like symptoms, including sore throat, sneezing, and stuffy or runny nose. With common colds, you may also experience an acute cough that lasts no longer than three weeks.
Proper Diagnosis Lies in Knowing the Underlying Cough Causes
Effective cough treatment starts with proper diagnosis of its underlying cause.
To make sure you use the right remedies and medication for your condition, make sure that you consult a medical professional.