Coughing is an important way to keep your throat and airways clear. However, too much coughing may mean you have a disease or disorder.
Some coughs are dry. Others are considered productive. A productive cough is one that brings up mucus. Mucus is also called phlegm or sputum.
Coughs can be either acute or chronic:
Recent upper airway infections, such as the common cold and flu, can cause coughs. Other common causes include:
If a child has a barking cough, see croup.
Although coughing can be a troubling symptom, it is usually your body's way of healing. Here are some tips to help ease your cough:
NOTE: Medical experts have recommended against using cough and cold drugs in children under age 6. Talk to your doctor before your child takes any type of over-the-counter cough medicine, even if it is labeled for children. These medicines likely will not work for children, and they may have serious side effects.
Medications available without a prescription include:
Do not expect a doctor to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections like colds or flu. Antibiotics do not work on viruses. Antibiotics also will not help coughs from allergies.
Call 911 if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
In an emergency, you will be treated first to stabilize the condition. After the condition is stable, the doctor will ask questions about your cough, including:
The health care provider will do an examination of your ears, nose, throat, and chest.
Tests that may be performed include:
Chang AB, Glomb WB. Guidelines for evaluating chronic cough in pediatrics: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2006;129(1 Suppl):260S-283S.
Chung KF, Widdicombe JG. Cough. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 29.
Irwin RS, Baumann MH, Bolser DC, et al. Diagnosis and management of cough executive summary: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2006;129(1 Suppl):1S-23S.
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