Acute Cough

Chest | Pulmonology | Acute Cough (Symptom)


A cough is a protective reflex action that helps to clear irritants or blockages from the airways. If sputum is produced, the cough is termed productive; if no sputum is produced, the cough is called dry.

The cough reflex subsists on three phases: an inhalation, a forced exhalation against a closed glottis, and a violent release of air from the lungs following opening of the glottis, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound.


A cough occurs when cells along the air passages get irritated and trigger a chain of events. The result is air in the lungs is forced out under high pressure. A person can choose to cough and it is called a voluntary process, or the body may cough on its own, an involuntary process.

Most coughs are due to short-term irritation of the respiratory tract and generally disappear spontaneously. In other cases, coughing may be a sign of a serious disorder of the lungs that requires medical treatment.

There are many causes for cough. Coughs can be classified into two categories: acute and chronic. An acute cough is the one that has been present for less than three weeks. Chronic coughs are those present for more than three weeks. Acute coughs can be divided into infectious, caused by an infection, and noninfectious causes.

Infectious causes of acute cough include viral upper respiratory infections such as the common cold, sinus infections, acute bronchitis, pneumonia, and whooping cough.

Noninfectious causes of cough include flare-ups of chronic conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and environmental allergies.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The goal of treatment for cough is to not only soothe the cough but also treat the underlying cause. The doctor may suggest certain medications that can help pinpoint the cause. Other medications that may be prescribed to either relieve the cough or treat the underlying problem include cough suppressants, inhalers, antibiotics, antihistamines, or expectorants. Some herbs and supplements may also be helpful in relieving your cough. ...

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