Why do we cough? Read about the different types of cough, causes and remedies
Coughing is one of the body’s most basic defence mechanisms. We cough to expel foreign particles such as from our respiratory system, which can help to clear bacteria and viruses out of the system.
Our immune system experts examine the various types of coughing, describes their causes and recommends suitable herbal and home remedies to ease any discomfort or pain. If you have a question, you can use our Q&A service.
What is cough?
Coughs are a very common symptom of Respiratory tract disorders. It must however, be remembered that a cough is only a symptom.
Technically, one should not treat a cough, but should consider and try to correct the underlying problem causing the cough.
Coughs can be voluntary, but the coughs which really matter in ill-health are those which are involuntary.
Coughing is caused by irritation of the cough reflex. The larger bronchi and trachea possess nerve receptors which are sensitive to contact and irritants. Stimulation of these receptors provokes the cough reflex.
During coughing, there is a sudden forced expiration of air from the lungs. At the same time, the muscles present in the Respiratory tract, from the pharynx down to the smaller bronchi tighten, causing a generalised constriction of the airways.
The purpose of these coordinated movements is to create a sudden expulsion of air, moving forcefully away from the lungs. Any foreign object, particle, or mucus is then forced out of the Respiratory tract, and into the back of the pharynx, to be either expectorated, or swallowed.
Whilst coughs can be very troublesome, they do serve the purpose of clearing the Respiratory tract of unwanted debri and mucus. In situations where food has entered the trachea inadvertently, this can potentially be life saving.
Coughs are often divided into two types – dry cough and wet cough.
Causes of coughing
When people give up smoking, for example, or if they are exposed to an abnormal amount of airborne debris, such as that experienced when living in a city, the lungs will attempt to rid themselves of the accumulated toxic material by initiating muscular spasms that project the material upwards.
A bacterial or viral infection may also initiate a cough, as the body attempts to remove the dead cells and waste matter left behind after the fight between the immune system and the germ.
Sometimes though, things go wrong. The problem with what is a useful tool for keeping us healthy, is that some coughs are ineffective and we continue coughing irritatingly without improving the condition of our respiratory tract at all.
This might be due to the continued presence of the irritant (such as tobacco smoke) or the very viscose nature of the material the body is trying to shift. Thick, molasses-like substances, left behind by tobacco inhalation, may be almost impossible for the body to break up and bring up.
Additionally, when a cough has been present for a while, the lining of the respiratory tract becomes inflamed and easily irritated, and more coughing can be triggered by very mild and innocuous irritants.
The most common cause of coughing must be due to cigarettes. The particles from cigarette smoke which are deposited on the surfaces of the bronchi cause irritation of the mucosal surfaces and trigger the cough reflex.
Prolonged exposure of the mucosal surfaces to cigarette smoke can cause a number of changes to the mucosal surfaces. There is an increase in the number of mucus secreting glands, and a loss of number and function of the cilia present on the ciliated mucosal cells.
The effect of these changes to the mucosal lining is to cause an increased secretion of mucus in the bronchi, as well as a reduced ability to clear the secretions. This creates an increased susceptibility of the bronchi to infections, leading to conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
The most devastating effects of smoking must be its ability to increase the incidence of cancer. It is now common knowledge that smoking causes Lung Cancer.
Many other cancers are also associated with smoking, and this list includes Bladder cancer and Nasopharyngeal Cancer (cancer of the nasal passages and pharynx).
Dry Cough causes and symptoms
Dry cough is one where there is no phlegm or no sputum production.
Most commonly, dry cough, is seen in viral infections of the nose and throat, where you get a continuous cough with a feeling of something being stuck in the throat.
Wet Cough causes and symptoms
In wet cough, the person expels a lot of phlegm (or sputum), because of problems arising from the lungs like bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma or some rare uncommon disorders.
Herbal remedies for dry cough
Some people would choose remedies to soothe their throat and chest instantly, preferably using something that tastes great. A.Vogel Soothing Natural Cough Syrup is soothing and pleasant to taste.A.Vogel Soothing Natural Cough Syrup is best for a dry, tickly-throat cough, sitting nicely with Plantago as it has a gentle decongesting action. This remedy is not suitable for diabetics as it contains honey and sugar.
- Great taste!
- Fresh fresh wild Norway Spruce
- Clinically proven
- Gluten- and lactose-free
Herbal remedies for wet cough
Bronchosan is able to deliver a ‘double whammy’ to respiratory complaints:
- Ivy relaxes the bronchial tubes, easing tightness and reducing spasms of coughing.
- Thyme thins mucus in the lungs, helping its expulsion.
In other words, you’ll cough less but when you do cough, it will be more productive – something will come out!
Thyme also has antiinfective properties.
You can use Bronchosan in conjunction with asthma medication to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. Bronchosan can also be taken with antibiotics, helping the body get rid of the infection faster.
Use Bronchosan when the problem lies below the neck, in the lungs or on the chest. Endless ‘hacking’ coughs will be reduced, but the muck (be it catarrh or gunge from an ex-smoker’s lungs) will come up more easily. The chest will feel less tight and tender, and the feeling ofhaving concrete in your lungs will lift.
The joy of this remedy is the speed at which it works. Often, 12 hours of use can easily make a big difference to your condition.
This is especially important with children’s coughs, which can keep the whole household awake!
It is safe for children and also for diabetics, who often struggle to find a ‘cough bottle’ free from sugar.
Infection is a major factor for many people with chronic chest complaints. In these circumstances, the combination of Echinaforce® and Bronchosan can be extremely effective.
On the other hand Bronchosan is an alternative for people with allergies to Echinacea, since it does not contain any.
Lifestyle changes for cough
Sometimes suppressing a cough is the worst thing you could do because the toxins that should have been removed stay in the system and bung you up.
The best thing is to help the body remove the irritants as quickly and effectively as possible. Here are some sensible guidelines:
- Reduce your intake of dairy foods
- Drink plenty of still water (warm if you prefer) and ensure your bowel is working daily, to flush toxins out of the system
- Don’t stay in stuffy rooms or expose yourself to cigarette smoke
- Enjoy the fresh air but wrap up warmly and don’t expose your throat to cold winds
- Keep your immune system strong by taking a maintenance dose of Echinaforce® (15 drops once daily) if you are prone to coughs and colds in the winter.
When should I go to the doctor?
Most coughs, particularly those associated with colds and flu, disappear quickly. However, coughs can also be caused by other conditions, some of which may require medical attention. You should seek advice if you:
- Cough up blood
- Feel short of breath or wheezy
- Experience chest pain or tightness in your chest
- Suffer from asthma and experience a cough, especially at night
- Have a cough that does not improve within 7 days
- Suffer from an unexplained persistent cough (one lasting longer than 3 weeks)
- Are also feeling tired or lethargic
- Experience fever
- Notice unexplained weight loss.
What do you think?
Have you found what you read useful? If so, I would love if you would leave your comment below. Thanks Sonia Chartier
$ 13.99 (100 mL)