A cough is a natural reflex involving breathing and muscle contractions. A cough helps your body heal, protect itself and clear your throat and airways of irritants and mucus. There are three types of cough:
Anyone can get a cough. Cough is the most common symptom reported in the offices of healthcare providers.
In general, common causes of a cough include:
Beyond these causes, medical conditions can cause cough. Acute cough and subacute cough can be caused by:
Chronic cough can be caused by:
Your healthcare provider will take a medical history, give you a physical exam, and may order some tests. As part of the exam, your provider will check your vital signs, like temperature and the number of breaths you take. He or she might order a chest X-ray or lung function tests if your cough has lasted a long time.
Your provider may ask:
Treating a cough will depend on what is causing the cough. For infections, your doctor might prescribe some type of antibiotic or antiviral medication. For GERD, he or she might prescribe a proton pump inhibitor.
Drinking water can help ease a cough. In addition, adding it to the air with a vaporizer or having a steamy shower are other ways water relieves a cough.
Quitting smoking and avoiding other irritants are also ways to relieve a cough. Those irritants may include medicines, smoke, or other allergens.
You might get more specific directions from your healthcare provider if you, or your child, has a chronic disease, such as asthma. In general, call your healthcare provider if you have a cough that will not go away and these symptoms:
If you have a cough and seem to be choking, cannot breathe well, or if you see a lot of blood, call 911 or go to an emergency room.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 03/30/2018