Generally a cough is simply a bodily response that is designed to repel foreign objects that might enter through the respiratory tract, much like sneezing. Typically the causes of this reaction are dust, mucus or other foreign objects. Cough might be a relatively effective technique for keeping intruders out but it is also an effective way of spreading germs. Most mild coughs will simply result in cold or influenza symptoms, this type of cough is most common during the winter months and is usually only present for a short period of time after which it will disappear of its own accord. While these coughs are nothing to worry about there are some more serious ones.
Acute and chronic coughs are terms used to describe the intensity of a cough. An acute cough will usually last for less than two weeks subsiding after just one episode. If a cough last longer than a fortnight or has re-occurring episodes then it is deemed as a chronic cough. A chronic cough will commonly re-occur and a single episode could last as long as three months. People that have predisposed respiratory conditions such as asthma are far more prone to chronic coughs.
There are a number of different potential causes for a cough. As mentioned earlier the most common cause is simply foreign objects in the respiratory tract. Other causes include allergies, predisposed conditions such as asthma or tuberculosis, an infection in the upper respiratory tract, or even emotional and psychological problems. When the triggers are emotional or psychological the cough is known as psychogenic cough.
A cough could characterise any of the following medical conditions:
Pneumonia – This condition can cause the lung to become infected, which can then in turn cause the lungs to fill up with mucus or water. Symptoms will usually include a cough and a high fever, and the condition can often be triggered by prolonged exposure to the cold.
Asthma – This disease causes a constriction of the respiratory tract. The triggers of an asthma attack can vary from person to person but commonly dust, cold air, and smoke will be effective. Symptoms include coughing and a shortness of breath.
Bronchitis – This disease is commonly caused as a result of a viral infection located in the small airways of the lungs. The cough caused by this condition is often characterised by a whistle like breathing sound.
Tuberculosis – This is a disease that attacks the lungs and is contagious. If it is not treated immediately the effects can be lethal. A common symptom is regular coughs, which will often occur around the same time of day or night.