Cold seasons, viruses, bacteria, various diseases and health conditions may make people cough. There are different types of cough and they occur in different intensity. Although in some cases cough may appear terrifying, especially if it occurs in a form of severe attack and the patient is unable to stop it intentionally, cough is, in its nature, beneficial to human health.
Cough is not the disease or a particular condition itself; it’s a symptom and a relief action. When our respiratory system gets blocked from mucus or gets irritated in another way, our body tries to work things out and get us rid of the obstacle. Coughing is an action of a human’s body, meant to relieve the pressure and irritation that damage our lungs and airway passages. It is a body reflex striving to free our respiratory ways and get foreign substances, mucus or anything else out of our system, allowing us to breathe normally.
There are various conditions causing cough. Depending on the cause or a particular trigger, cough can vary in its length, intensity and frequency. It could be accompanied with secretions of different density, color and composition. In severe cases, some people cough out blood. It can also be completely dry and irritating.
Some coughs lasts for short, some could lengthen for weeks, months and so on. There are also certain conditions and habits that could make a person cough constantly or when triggered by a particular action. Smokers often suffer from chronic cough, for example.
Types of cough by duration and frequency
Coughs can be divided in two major groups, based on their frequency and duration. There are acute and chronic coughs. Depending on a particular cause, coughs could occur episodically, they could be associated with acute health issues, chronic health conditions, diseases and various types of irritations, such as allergies, surroundings condition or individual habits.
Acute coughs could occur during infectious diseases caused by viral infections. Those include common cold, bronchitis episode, pneumonia, whooping cough and sinus infections. Those usually lasts as long the condition lasts, but in many cases it could prolong even when all other symptoms are gone, but the body still needs to clear out the airway passages from leftovers of mucus etc. Acute coughs can also be non-infectious. Those are actually flare-ups of a certain condition irritating respiratory system. Chronic bronchitis, asthma, seasonal or environmental allergies and emphysema are accompanied by cough. Depending on the cause, cough may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever.
Chronic coughs occur within different conditions and are triggered by various causes. They could be triggered by foreign substances in our air passages of the upper respiratory system, by environmental irritants and lungs conditions and issues. Chronic coughs could also occur because of other chest problems, not within the lungs and also because of digestive issues. Any health issue that chronically affects the upper respiratory system or lungs is often accompanied by chronic cough.
Lungs diseases and chronic conditions commonly cause cough. The most usual triggers of cough are chronic lungs conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Other conditions are rare, compared to mentioned. Those are cancer, sarcoidosis, lung tissue degenerating diseases, congestive heart failure. There are also conditions that are not particularly associated with lungs, but are also very likely to cause chronic cough. Those include chronic sinus infection, external ear diseases, throat infections, chronic post nasal drip and others. Chronic cough could also be triggered by certain medications, such as ACE inhibitors for blood pressure regulation.
Conditions related to chest cavity could also affect our body in a way that forces it to activate cough reflex. There are different causes affecting chest cavity that are commonly responsible for cough. Those are abnormal developments of lymph nodes, aorta swellings and cancer. Besides chest causes, there are digestive issues that could cause chronic cough, as well. Gastroesophageal reflux is a condition frequently overseen as a cough trigger. However, this condition causes irritation of respiratory organs and muscular tube, esophagus, which connects humans’ stomach and throat. When those canals get irritated a coughing reflex occurs.
Certain practices or environmental conditions are commonly responsible for chronic cough. Hardcore smokers are known to cough constantly or at least while they consume cigarettes. Common irritants that cause people to cough are dust, pet dander, pollen, industrial materials, chemicals, pollution, smokes of different sorts, lack of air humidity, interior dry air and so on. Cough triggered by those causes is usually no fever cough.
Types of cough by appearance
Coughs could also be divided in another two groups, depending on their nature or appearance. There are productive and unproductive coughs. The explanation of the names is logical. The first group is always accompanied by coughing up mucus/phlegm of different consistency, composition, color, odor, thickness etc. Other group includes dry coughs, not accompanied by mucus or coughing out any substances.
Productive coughs are coughs that are accompanied by mucus/phlegm. Mucus is a substance naturally found in our body, needed for normal functioning of our organs. Certain health conditions make our body to produce more mucus that usual. When it gets accumulated in our lungs, chests and throat, it feels heavy and burdening, so our body tries to find a way to get rid of it. That is why we cough. With mucus, our body also gets rid of waste material and substances causing us to be unhealthy. So, mucus cough is beneficial, in general. We will discuss about mucus and its mission in more detail, later on.
Dry cough could be extremely severe and painful. There is no mucus that would sooth the action of coughing, which badly affects our airway passages and throat and make us feel they are literally being torn apart. It commonly occurs in our throat, being shallower that mucus lung or chest cough. The sensation could appear so severe that a patient tries to avoid coughing by any price. Upper respiratory system inflammation or environmental irritants, such as dust or cigarettes, usually trigger dry coughs.
Mucus cough is a very common symptom of different health issues and conditions, respiratory system problems, in the first place. Most of people usually take it for granted, meaning they simply consider it a natural phenomenon of their body. However, when mucus changes its consistency or color, or other substances are found within, such as blood, for example, patients get worried. The way the mucus occurs and how it looks like could tell a lot about patients’ condition. While most people usually consider mucus something grouse and disgusting, thinking negatively of it, the truth is mucus is a beneficial body agent. It helps our body fight the disease or condition and contributes to healing process.
What is mucus?
You’ve may not known, but human’s body produces about one and a half liters of mucus each day. It is a substance normally found in a healthy person’s body. Mucus or phlegm is normally clear and in moderate amounts, so you aren’t aware of its presence. The truth is, mucus is a substance of an inevitable importance for our bodies and health. According to some otolaryngology experts, phlegm or mucus works the same way as the industrial oil works for engines. It is needed to make our body mechanisms function fine. Without it, the body ‘machine’ seizes. However, being a living body’s product, mucus changes with different factors affecting our body and health.
Besides its fuel-like role, mucus also works as a sponge for foreign and undesirable substances that could get into our body. It prevents our body from getting irritated by dust and similar substances and helps it reduce risk of bacterial infections and similar disease causes. It ‘traps’ unwanted material. When we cough, we throw out the waste substances along with mucus. In addition, mucus itself contains antibodies; those important components that support our immune system and help us fight invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.
Not every person has the same amount of mucus. In some people, mucus is naturally thicker and stickier than in others. However, there is usually needed an outside cause to make your body produce an amount of mucus you would notice and get coughing reflex, in order to get rid of it. Besides allergies, cold, smoking routine or environmental conditions of other sort, certain eating habits could also increase mucus production. For example, drinking milk is often associated with a greater mucus production. However, it doesn’t mean milk affects a trigger like cold in a bad way. There is no reason not to have it if you’ve got cold or such.
Types of mucus could tell a lot about someone’s health. Let us check what mucus characteristics could tell about a person’s health and a particular condition.
Green phlegm or dark yellow mucus, thick and sticky, is a common symptom of a viral or bacterial infection. However, some studies have shown it does not necessarily imply the presence of an infection. Green snot composition comes from white blood cells our body activates to fight the cold, for example. They contain certain enzymes, which give mucus its recognizable, unpleasant greenish color. Therefore, the color does not come from the invaders in all cases, but from our body defenders themselves.
Green mucus with brown spots
Green mucus with brown spots or brownish phlegm usually occurs within smoking population. Cigarettes contain substances that are responsible for coloring the mucus brown. Besides that, cigarette smoke is an irritant, which makes a smoker’s organism produce more mucus itself. Combined with saliva, it is a common accompanist of smokers’ cough. If you have brown mucus or green mucus with brown spots and you’re not a smoker, it might come from the food you’re eating. Red wine, coffee and chocolate are very likely to color your mucus brown.
Green mucus with blood
Mucus accompanied by blood could be a sign of a condition known as haemoptysis or bronchitis, if the blood is found in traces. The more severe causes, which consider coughing up large amounts of blood, are pneumonia, tuberculosis, cancer, pulmonary embolism. Excessive bleeding always seeks for an immediate medical intervention.
Coughing up phlegm in the morning usually occurs as a symptom of chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic pulmonary disease or allergies. All those make your body produce more mucus while you’re sleeping. After you wake up, the mucus naturally tries to get out of your body, causing you coughing reflex.
For the same reason, your cough could get worsen during the night. As you lie, mucus piles up in your body due to gravity and cause you cough at night. Non-stop coughing is common in chronic conditions, mentioned above. It is a chronic type of cough, usually triggered by certain long-term health conditions or environmental causes.
How to stop coughing?
Cough comes with various conditions and is triggered by different factors. However, there are certain simple steps that help instantly stop coughing or reduce its intensity. Regular hydration is important to keep your upper respiratory tract humid, so you don’t get additionally irritated. Warm beverages could also sooth your throat and reduce cough.
Steamy showers, air humidifiers work the same. Try to remove irritants from the air, as well. Sleep in well-winded rooms; keep away from allergens and pollution. If those doesn’t help you stop coughing, seek for your doctor’s advice. He may prescribe you cough relieving medications, such as cough suppressants.