We’ve all suffered through a random coughing attack or hacked our way through the common cold. Usually, time and some over-the-counter cough medicine are all that’s needed. However, a chronic cough or one with no identifiable traits is another story.
A chronic cough can be a sign of something more serious. Here are some common and not-so-common respiratory illnesses that could be causing your chronic cough.
Common Lung Ailments & Chronic Cough
Your lungs have the important job of bringing oxygen into your body and filtering out the harmful carbon dioxide. When your lungs and throat become irritated, you may experience coughing to help relieve this irritation. Pre-existing conditions or temporary illnesses sometimes cause this irritation.
Asthma is a common lung condition in which one in thirteen people in the United States suffers from. It causes the airways to narrow resulting in breathing difficulties and even coughing.
These asthmatic coughs often turn into wheezing. This wheezing is described as a whistling sound. Often an inhaler is used to help stop the coughing and wheezing.
A chronic cough (meaning it lasts for a long time) could mean a type of asthma called cough variant asthma. The main symptom of this type of asthma is a persistent, dry cough. If left unchecked, it could turn into regular asthma.
When the trees and flowers are blooming, you may notice that you have started to cough more than usual. This might be a symptom of seasonal allergies.
Your lungs produce something called histamine to help fight the allergens infiltrating your system. The problem starts when your body overproduces these histamines. That’s when your allergy symptoms begin like sneezing, watery eyes, and oftentimes-a cough.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD blocks correct airflow in your lungs. Tobacco smoke is a huge component in someone developing COPD. Excess mucus builds up in the lungs of those with this ailment. A cough helps to expel this irritant.
Chronic bronchitis commonly affects those with COPD. A common symptom of this is a cough accompanied by discolored phlegm.
Viral and Bacterial Infections
The common cold and the flu are caused by viruses or bacteria. There are two reasons your cold or flu could be causing you to cough. The first is that your airways are irritated due to your illness. Because of this irritation, your body reacts by coughing to help ease this irritation.
The second reason is that your body is trying to expel the phlegm that has trapped all the harmful germs. Either way, over-the-counter medicines help with the symptoms of these types of coughs.
Pneumonia is an infection in either one or both lungs. It can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses and can be transmitted through contact with an infected person, whether direct or indirect. Coughing, sneezing, and secondhand touch are all ways to become infected. Common symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Greenish yellow, or possibly bloody mucus
- Fever and sweating
- Shaking and chills
- Shortness of breath
- Shallow breathing
- No appetite and fatigue
Left untreated, Pneumonia can have serious effects on the infected, and can even lead to death. If you suspect you may have Pneumonia, consult your physician immediately.
Not-So-Common Lung Diseases & Chronic Cough
Although coughing is a common symptom for many types of sickness and allergies, it sometimes signifies something a little more serious.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a serious illness that affects your respiratory system. It most commonly affects babies, although older children and adults could contract it as well. The most common symptom is a violent cough followed by a sharp intake of air or a “whoop.”
Those who have whooping cough may find it hard to catch their breath which results in them turning a red or blueish color. Because of the serious nature of this cough, it is best to consult your doctor. The availability of the whooping cough vaccine has made this illness less common.
Another uncommon lung disease is tuberculosis (TB). TB most commonly affects your lungs although it can sometimes affect the kidneys, spine, and even your brain. It is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes causing tiny droplets to spread in the air.
Although this disease is contagious, it is difficult to contract it from strangers. You most likely would get TB from someone you are in close contact with.
Two of the most common TB symptoms include a bloody cough that persists for longer than three weeks and severe night sweats. If you have these symptoms consult your doctor. When left untreated, TB is very serious. But with modern medicine many treatment options are available.
Cystic fibrosis is a serious genetic disorder. It causes your lungs to overproduce thick, sticky mucus resulting in clogged lungs. This produces a serious cough with an excess amount of phlegm. This cough could include wheezing which sounds like high-pitched whistling.
Although a persistent cough is a primary symptom of CF, other symptoms include malnourishment, repeated lung infections, salty skin, and bulky stools.
Because cystic fibrosis is genetic, you cannot “catch” it, but rather you inherit it from your parents. Symptoms of CF can begin as early as infancy, but in some cases, CF may not be diagnosed until adulthood.