Salamat Dok: Why do people cough?

By Dr. Gerald PB. Belandres, Salamat Dok contributor

Posted at Feb 02 2014 11:55 AM | Updated as of Feb 02 2014 07:55 PM

Coughing is a common reflex action that aims to clear the throat of foreign irritants or mucus. This reflex indicates a number of conditions, both temporary and permanent. This is a common symptom of infections or allergies.

Coughing occurs when the nerve endings in your airways become irritated. The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. Coughing may last for days to weeks, or even months. An acute cough lasts less than three weeks. A subacute cough lasts three to eight weeks. A chronic cough lasts more than eight weeks.

The following are the most common causes of cough:

Allergic cough: This is recurrent and is due to allergen-antibody reaction. This may be seasonal and at its peak on cold and hot seasons. Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system. Allergies are not contagious, although some people may inherit a tendency to develop them.

Here are some common allergens:

• Pollen
• Mold
• Animal dander
• Dust mites
• Cockroaches

Asthmatic cough: This is an acute cough. Uncontrolled allergic cough triggers this condition. This defines the hyperactivity of the airways that produces wheezes on both lung fields due to narrowing of the windpipe. This is incurable but it can be controlled. Bronchodilators like Salbutamol nebulization helps a lot.

Smokers cough. This is a persistent cough that develops in long-term smokers. It's present for more than two to three weeks. The lining of the airways is composed of hair cells that are called cilia. Smoking paralyzes these cells so they're unable to propel the allergen that produce cough. Long term smoking leads to bronchitis and emphysema.

Infectious cough. Pneumonia is a breathing /respiratory condition in which there is an infection of the lung. The infection is caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. The most common bacteria is Streptococcus pneumoniae. Aside from cough, fever is commonly present. Doctors may hear crackles and rales on the chest wall during physical examination. Oral or intravenous antibiotic medications can cure as such.

Tuberculosis cough. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets (acid fast bacilli) that are expelled from an infected person. TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The tuberculosis cough may be associated with hemoptysis (blood when coughing), weight loss, night sweats and low grade fever. A TB infection can usually be cured. Most people will need a course of antibiotics, usually for six months with anti-Koch medications religiously.

Doctors evaluate cough through the medical history of the patient and physical examinations. Through a stethoscope, we detect the respiratory sounds that indicate different conditions.

A diagnostic procedure such as plain chest X-rays defines its severity and extent.

One should take ascorbic acid daily is strongly advised for an individual to protect from cough.

Remember that simple cough can lead to a more serious problem. Prevention is better than cure. -- Multimedia Producer: Yam dela Cruz

Follow the 'Health Show ng Bayan' on Twitter:, Facebook:, Google+:, and YouTube: ‎