Coughing is a reflex that clears the windpipe and air passageways in the lungs, keeping them open. The cough reflex is an important defense mechanism: Coughing expels bacteria, mucus, and foreign substances that plug the airways and can cause pneumonia. Any process that irritates the windpipe or air passageways in the lungs can cause a cough.

Common causes for cough include:

  • reflux
  • postnasal drip
  • allergy
  • sinusitis
  • chronic bronchitis
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • asthma
  • upper respiratory infections​

More rarely, it can be related to a malignancy or chronic inflammatory process. ​

A cough may be dry, or it may expel mucus from the air passageways. Symptoms that may occur with a cough include fever, chest wall pain, wheezing, sinus congestion, ​voice changes, swallowing changes​, and breathing difficulty.

Treatment for a cough depends on the underlying cause. Cough treatment may include:

  • cough suppressant medications
  • antihistamines
  • corticosteroids
  • antibiotics
  • inhaled medications that help to open the air passages​
  • avoiding smoking

​After proper evaluation, appropriate treatment can be determined.​

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