Coughing is an important way to keep your throat and airways clear. But too much coughing may mean you have a disease or disorder.
Some coughs are dry. Others are productive. A productive cough is one that brings up mucus. Mucus is also called phlegm or sputum.
Coughs can be either acute or chronic:
Common causes of coughing are:
Other causes include:
If you have asthma or another chronic lung disease, make sure you are taking medicines prescribed by your health care provider.
Here are some tips to help ease your cough:
Medicines you can buy on your own include:
If you have seasonal allergies, such as hay fever:
If you have allergies year-round, cover your pillows and mattress with dust mite covers, use an air purifier, and avoid pets with fur and other triggers.
Treat the underlying cause (per above) as directed by your provider.
Call 911 or the local emergency number if you have:
Contact your provider right away if you have a cough and any of the following:
The provider will perform a physical exam. You will be asked about your cough. Questions may include:
The provider will examine your ears, nose, throat, and chest.
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment depends on the cause of the cough.
Chung KF, Mazzone SB. Cough. In: Broaddus VC, King TE, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 37.
Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 77.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 5/3/2023
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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