What Exactly Is A Cough?

What Exactly Is A Cough, Medically Speaking?

CoughingDo you know what a cough actually is? While a cough may seem sudden, your body actually goes through an entire process to create a cough.

Step one: an irritant gets into the body

Step two: the irritant stimulates the nerves in your lungs or throat

Step three: the message is then sent to your brain that you need to cough

Step four: your muscles then push air out of your lungs to try and get rid of the irritant

Coughing can sometimes be extremely forceful and cause headaches, sleepiness, and even broken ribs. An acute cough is nothing to worry about and completely normal, but sometimes when coughs linger, it’s time for concern.

Reasons Why You Cough

If you have a cough that lasts for more than a few minutes, such as a cough that goes on for days or weeks, you may be wondering what the cause could be. There are many reasons that people cough, or rather, many things that cause the irritations that lead to coughing. These include:

  • The cold or flu, which lasts for 1 to 2 weeks
  • Bronchitis, which could last for several weeks
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease a.k.a. chronic heartburn
  • Pneumonia, which can last up to a month
  • Chronic postnasal drip
  • Rare but serious medical conditions

When a Cough is More Than Just a Cough

A chronic cough may be a lingering dry cough after a long illness, but it could also be something else. So, how do you know when it’s time to see a medical provider? Generally speaking, a cough that lasts more than three weeks, unless you have an active infection of pneumonia, is considered a chronic cough. This is the point where you might want to see a physician to try and get to the bottom of the cause of this cough. It may be that you still have a lingering infection that needs further treatment or that you have allergies or asthma. These things are not necessarily serious and have many treatment options. However, you should know that there are some rare cases in which serious conditions are the reason that you are coughing such as lung cancer, COPD, and chronic heart disease. Smokers and those with a family history of these issues are more likely to suffer from these more serious medical problems.

Contact O2 Pulmonary & Sleep Group

Have a cough that just won’t go away? Contact O2 Pulmonary & Sleep Group for an appointment.