What is Coughing? What Causes Coughing?

Cough is a complex reflex event that protects the lungs against mechanical, chemical, and thermal factors and is one of the defense mechanisms of the respiratory system.


What is Coughing? What Causes Coughing?

What is cough?

Cough is a complex reflex event that protects the lungs against mechanical, chemical, and thermal factors and is one of the defense mechanisms of the respiratory system. Its purpose is to prevent foreign substances from entering the airways and ensure that they and the secretions in the airways are expelled. The cough reflex can be voluntary, or it can sometimes occur involuntarily. There are cough cells (receptors) in sensitive areas that cause coughing to occur. They are most commonly found in the larynx, main trachea, and large bronchi. Still, cough cells (receptors) are found in the nose, sinuses, pharynx, eardrum, external auditory canal, pericardium, and stomach. There is also a cough center in our brain near the respiratory center. Cough cells (receptors) activate this center thanks to the signals coming through the nerves, and as a result, the necessary warnings are sent to the structures that will cause the cough, again via the nerves.

There are three periods of cough:

In the first period, a deep breath is taken.

In the second period, the larynx closes, and the respiratory muscles contract against this closed larynx. During this period, which lasts for 200 milliseconds, the pressures in the lungs increase rapidly.

In the third period, the larynx suddenly opens, and the compressed air is violently expelled due to the significant pressure difference between the lungs and the outside atmosphere. The secretions and foreign substances accumulated in the respiratory tract are thrown out thanks to these rapid currents. At this time, the known 'coughing sound' is heard with the vibration of the secretions in the airways, bronchial walls, and neighboring tissues.

What Causes Cough?

What is Acute and Chronic Cough?

Acute cough generally occurs due to short-term and periodic diseases. When the disease is treated, the cough goes away after a while. However, on the contrary, chronic cough is a long-lasting type of cough and can be accompanied by a severe illness.

Respiratory System Diseases

Cough can occur not only with lung diseases but also with other organ diseases. The respiratory system extends from the nose to the lungs. Therefore, a problem in the nose also concerns the respiratory system. Problems in the nose, foreign matter in the nose, runny nose, nasal congestion, problems with the sinuses, all problems in the throat or mouth; The onset of many problems such as pharyngitis, flu, tonsillitis, colds can be encountered with cough. Today, pneumonia ranks first among all infectious causes of death. And only with a cough can patients come to the doctor. Apart from these, there is a disease that we call bronchitis, caused by the enlargement of the airways, in which coughing can quickly occur. COPD, the 4th most common cause of death globally, is one of the most common causes of cough, mainly due to smoking. Apart from this, asthma is also one of the causes of coughing.

Stomach Problems

This is called reflux in the esophagus problems and inflammations, especially the backward escaping of stomach contents. Reflux is also one of the causes of cough.

Heart Diseases

Heart failure is one of the most important causes of cough. Sometimes no cause can be found. This is what we call a habit-induced cough.

Lung and Cancer Diseases

Lung cancer can be seen most frequently in patients who present with cough. Therefore, a much more detailed examination should be done in people who come with a cough. Apart from this, any tumor that may occur in the airways, inflammation, pneumonia such as chronic bronchitis is a microbial disease of the lungs. Today, pneumonia ranks first among all infectious causes of death. And only with the symptom of cough can people consult a doctor. Apart from these, cough can be seen as a symptom of the disease that occurs with the expansion of bronchitis.

Cough can be the only symptom of the disease known as tuberculosis.

What are the Cough Types?

Dry Cough

Dry cough generally does not contain sputum, but it causes severe irritation of the throat. Cough; It is seen together with diseases such as flu, pharyngitis, asthma, reflux, cold, heart failure, and tuberculosis. A dry cough that does not go away for a long time can cause pain in the lungs and even muscle aches. If you have a dry cough that does not go away and some of the following symptoms, be sure to see a doctor.

  • Severe Chest Pain
  • Sweating during sleep
  • Grunt
  • Tiredness
  • Anorexia
  • Continuous high fever

Cough with Phlegm

A liquid called sputum may accompany the cough. Sputum can be caused by most smoking sinusitis and bronchitis. Contrary to popular belief, cough with phlegm, generally seen in smokers, is not normal. This cough, which can become a chronic disease, can also be a bronchiectasis disease known as cigarette cough.

Allergic Cough

Cough is seen periodically in allergic bodies, especially in the respiratory tract. In allergy-related coughs, allergy tests must be done to find out which allergen is causing this problem. After the type of allergen is determined, preventive drugs and allergy treatment should be started to prevent cough.

How Is Cough Passed?

If a disease in the person causes cough complaints, medical treatments are applied to relieve cough. For coughs that can last up to 3 weeks, a pulmonologist should be consulted. Therapy can be used to widen the bronchi in the complaint of cough in infectious diseases. If deemed appropriate by the doctor, a chest x-ray and pulmonary function test may also be done.

In which situations should cough be taken seriously?

Cough is not a condition that should be taken seriously and can resolve on its own. It can be the most important symptom of a severe illness of the person. For this reason, the cough should be taken seriously in the cases listed below. These are;

  • If it lasts more than 15 days and does not go away with medical treatment,
  • If you experience high fever and shortness of breath with cough,
  • If the cough is phlegmatic and blood comes out, a specialist should be consulted.

What is good for cough?

  • Take Vitamin C
  • Eat Healthily
  • Exercise
  • Get regular and timely sleep
  • For Water
  • Ginger
  • Stay away from smoking

After the diagnosis of the cause of the cough, treatment should be started. If the cause of the cough is a viral (infection) cause, some preventive measures can be taken and the treatment. These are;

  • Getting vitamin C from vegetables and fruits in winter,
  • Preferring healthy foods and eating regularly,
  • Drinking 8 glasses of water during the day and taking plenty of fluids,
  • Doing regular sports or walking even for a short time during the day,
  • Paying attention to sleep times and not going to bed late,
  • Preferring ginger or licorice root teas to relieve throat inflammation
  • Abstain from smoking,
  • Not using drugs or syrups other than medical treatment is one of the basic precautions that can be taken.

Cough in Babies and Children

Although cough is a protective reflex, it is one of the most common symptoms of respiratory diseases in children. If the cough lasts less than 15 days, it is called acute cough, if it lasts longer than 15 days, it is called long-lasting cough, and if it lasts longer than 1 month, it is called chronic cough. A cough in children can be a simple cold or a symptom of a severe illness. Cough due to viruses, namely flu, is very common in children, especially those who go to kindergarten. These coughs usually last up to 10 days.

  • If a cough develops suddenly and cough-like barking, it should come to mind. Sometimes shortness of breath on the curb is severe and requires immediate treatment.
  • If a coughing child has a fever of up to 39 degrees with sputum production or shortness of breath, pneumonia should be considered.
  • Smoking and exposure to strong odors can also cause coughing.

What are the causes of prolonged cough in children?

  • It usually occurs due to the development of sinusitis or pneumonia by adding microbes to the flu infection. If you have a cough that lasts for a long time, you should go to the doctor.
  • That is chronic cough lasting longer than 1 month may be due to more important problems.
  • One of the most common causes of chronic cough is asthma. Asthma should be considered, especially if there is coughing at night, shortness of breath, and coughing towards the morning.
  • Cough due to reflux may be seen in young infants.
  • Rarely, coughing is caused by a foreign body, such as peanut, entering the lungs. It should be kept in mind that a foreign body may have escaped into the lungs, especially in a child who develops a coughing attack while eating seeds or peanuts.
  • Cough may be due to congenital lung and heart problems. The development of heart failure can lead to coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Earwax can also cause coughing.
  • If the cough feels like choking and there is a deep breath after coughing, whooping cough may come to mind if vomiting is seen.
  • Weight loss, prolonged cough with bloody sputum may be due to tuberculosis.
  • If there is a cough with growth retardation, cystic fibrosis may come to mind.

What can be done if your child is coughing?

Cough is a common complaint in children. Since cough is a symptom, not a disease, giving cough suppressants without determining the cause is incorrect. Its use in herbal medicines is also not recommended. It is necessary to diagnose the disease that causes cough and make the proper treatment.

  • If the cause of cough is due to flu infection, it is not correct to use antibiotics. Antibiotics are of no use in influenza infections. If there is nasal congestion due to an influenza infection, nasal drops or sprays can be used. It is recommended to drink plenty of fluids and rest. If there is a post-nasal drip, treatments that reduce the post-nasal bead can be given.
  • Children younger than 3 months should consult a doctor. Because in children younger than 3 months, cough can progress rapidly and cause shortness of breath.
  • If there is a mild cough in children older than 3 months, warm water or warm fruit juices can be given. If there is nasal congestion, saline nasal drops can be given. Saline can be dripped into the nose frequently. If there is wheezing or shortness of breath, or high fever, they should consult a doctor.
  • For children older than 1 year, it is recommended to drink plenty of fluids. With nasal congestion, saline nasal drops can be given.
  • If the nose is blocked in children older than 6 years, saline nasal sprays can be used.
  • A doctor should be seen if the cough has lasted longer than 15 days because there may be an underlying condition such as sinusitis or pneumonia. If children under 1 year of age have a cough with frequent vomiting, a doctor should see the child evaluate for reflux.
  • If the cough is accompanied by bloody sputum and weight loss, it should be investigated for tuberculosis.
  • If the child has a frequent cough with growth retardation, he should be investigated for cystic fibrosis.
  • If there is a cough that lasts longer than 1 month, especially if there is a cough that wakes you up at night, a cough in the morning, a cough that increases with exercise, there may be an underlying asthma disease.

What are the situations in which cough in children is dangerous?

The croup should be considered if a sudden onset of barking cough, hoarseness, and difficulty in breathing develops, and a doctor should be seen urgently. Because sometimes, shortness of breath can be life-threatening.

  • If there is a fever up to 39 degrees with cough and sputum, pneumonia should be considered, and a doctor should be seen urgently.
  • If a cough develops in a child younger than 3 months, they should see a doctor immediately.
  • If bruising occurs with coughing, a doctor should be seen immediately.
  • If coughing is sequential and choking, vomiting is seen from the back; a doctor should be immediately evaluated for whooping cough.

What is suitable for our coughing child?

  • Nasal drops or sprays can be used if there is nasal congestion in coughs due to an influenza infection.
  • It is recommended to drink plenty of fluids and rest.
  • If the cough is caused by a cold virus or a flu infection, it is contagious due to the dispersal of body secretions. If a child who goes to kindergarten has a cough due to a very intense virus, it is essential for other children’s health that the child is not sent to the nursery until his cough and contagiousness have passed.
  • To prevent contamination, the child should wear a mask, and we should wash our hands more often after contact with the sick child.
  • A coughing child should be taken to a doctor immediately if a dangerous situation is noticed.