Coughing 101

Coughing 101

We see people cough all the time: on the bus, in the mall, at school and at doctors’ offices. Coughs are annoying, and sometimes embarrassing, and everyone has had someone say to them “That cough sounds real bad”. And the sound of the cough is often what helps doctors diagnose it. Here’s a list of the different types of coughs we hear:

Dry Cough: This cough is often one of those nagging coughs that do not produce any mucus or phlegm. This type of cough irritates the lungs and throat. Some common causes are environmental irritants, smoke or viral infections.

Wet or Productive Cough: This cough produces mucus or phlegm (that’s where the wet name comes from). The mucus or phlegm can be different colours. The different colours can give the doctors hints as to what type of infection is causing the cough. The mucus comes from the nasal passages and drips down into the back of your throat making you cough, or from acid reflex.

Barking Cough: Generally this cough can be associated with croup or other viral illnesses. This cough swells the vocal cords and throat causing the bark sounds we hear. This cough tends to get worse at night, keeping kids up. Steam from the shower can help this one out.

Whooping Cough: This type of cough is very distinctive, and you will know when you hear this type of cough. The “whooping” sound comes from gasping for air and can be heard after the cough. This one is pretty serious and contagious! This one is preventable by vaccine, but is still the most common preventable cough out there.

Depending on the type, and severity of the cough, some over the counter and home remedies might do the trick! If you’re unsure, or if you’re child’s cough isn’t getting better after 1 week, it’s best to see a cough expert, your family doctor or pediatrician. But if you experience any associated symptoms like trouble breathing, chest pain, coughing up blood, fever or night sweats, it’s best to see your doctor right away.

– Dr. Christina Cesareo and Dr. G Paul Dempsey

Further reading:
Coughs” – AboutKidsHealth
Coughs and Colds: Medicines or Home Remedies?” – Healthy Children
Coughing” – KidsHealth


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