What’s Causing That Cough?

A cough is supposed to protect you. It usually goes away after a few days as it’s the body’s natural way to get rid of particles that irritate the throat and lungs to keep breathing passages clear; but, a persistent cough usually means there is an underlying health problem. Thus, it is important to seek medical attention if your cough is persistent.

 

Common Cold / Acute Bronchitis

One of the most frequent causes of coughing is a viral infection – in other words, a common cold or acute bronchitis. If we or our children come in contact with people who are suffering from a cold – at work, for example, or in a pre-school nursery, kindergarten or school – then the viruses may penetrate into the bronchi, attack the healthy cells, and multiply.

In a bronchial inflammation, it is often accompanied by increased mucus formation where the cilia no longer manage to expel the mucus. Finely tuned sensors (receptors) in our mucous membranes detect these different stimuli and send signals to the cough centre in our brain, triggering the reflex: we start coughing. This can eventually result in a spasm of the bronchial musculature.

By constricting the muscles in combination with coughing, the body tries to expel the mucus and thus become difficult to breathe.

 

What’s Causing That Cough?

A cough is supposed to protect you. It usually goes away after a few days as it’s the body’s natural way to get rid of particles that irritate the throat and lungs to keep breathing passages clear; but, a persistent cough usually means there is an underlying health problem. Thus, it is important to seek medical attention if your cough is persistent.

 

Common Cold / Acute Bronchitis

One of the most frequent causes of coughing is a viral infection – in other words, a common cold or acute bronchitis. If we or our children come in contact with people who are suffering from a cold – at work, for example, or in a pre-school nursery, kindergarten or school – then the viruses may penetrate into the bronchi, attack the healthy cells, and multiply.

In a bronchial inflammation, it is often accompanied by increased mucus formation where the cilia no longer manage to expel the mucus. Finely tuned sensors (receptors) in our mucous membranes detect these different stimuli and send signals to the cough centre in our brain, triggering the reflex: we start coughing. This can eventually result in a spasm of the bronchial musculature.

By constricting the muscles in combination with coughing, the body tries to expel the mucus and thus become difficult to breathe.


Causes continuous irritation of the bronchi


May lead to permanent damage to cilia


Causes overproduction of mucus

Smoking

People who smoke or are constantly exposed to dust, gases and vapours often experience a coughing fit. To get rid of the contamination (by cigarette smoke, bacteria or dust), the body naturally produces more mucus. However, continuous irritation disables the cilia (microscopic hairs) which are supposed to carry away the mucus. Over the long term, they are completely destroyed.

Types of Cough


Dry Cough

With a dry cough, the mucosa of the throat is irritated and the slightest stimulus can induce coughing or trigger a real coughing fit. In this case, the airways are not cleaned and the coughing therefore has no benefit. Especially in the evening and at night, this robs us or our children of sleep.


Productive Cough

With a productive cough, the formation of mucus increases. This cough leads to expectoration. The mucus can act as fertile ground for other pathogenic germs, such as bacteria, which is why it is important to support the process of coughing up the mucus, instead of suppressing the urge to cough.

The Different Phases of Coughing

1st phase


2–3 days of dry, unproductive coughing due to irritation and/or inflammation of the mucous membranes

2nd phase


Up to 14 days of mucus-forming, productive coughing

2nd phase


Up to 14 days of mucus-forming, productive coughing

3rd phase


In the healing phase, which can take as long as 8 weeks, the patient continues to suffer from mostly dry cough