A cough is your body’s natural reflex to help clear your airways of irritants and prevent infection. Common irritants include smoke, mucus, or allergens such as pollen, mold, or dust. Some medical conditions or medicines irritate the nerve endings in your airways and cause coughing.
A cough may be acute, subacute, or chronic depending on how long it lasts. Acute coughs last less than three weeks and usually are caused by the common cold or other infections such as sinusitis or pneumonia. Subacute coughs last three to eight weeks and remain after the initial cold or respiratory infection is over. Chronic coughs last more than eight weeks and can be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), postnasal drip from sinus infections or allergies, or chronic lung conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, and interstitial lung diseases.
Your doctor will consider your medical history, physical exam, and test results when diagnosing and treating cough. Quitting smoking and avoiding smoke, other irritants, or certain medicines may help relieve your cough. Medicines to control coughing are usually used only for coughs that cause extreme discomfort or interfere with sleep. Talk to your doctor about how to treat your child’s cough.
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