What Is Cough?
Cough is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of an underlying medical condition. A cough can be voluntary or involuntary, and it is the body’s way to help clear the airways of irritants and to prevent infection.
What Are Symptoms of Cough?
A cough may be accompanied by other cold symptoms, including:
What Causes Cough?
Causes of cough include:
- The most common cause of chronic cough
- Postnasal drip
- Lung conditions
- Congestive heart failure
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Certain medications such as ACE inhibitors
- Inhalation of foreign objects into the lungs (usually in children)
Is a Cough Contagious?
Cough itself is not contagious as it is a symptom of another condition, however, some causes of cough can be contagious.
How Is Cough Diagnosed?
Cough is diagnosed with a history and physical exam. Tests may be used to help diagnose the cause of the cough.
What Is the Treatment for Cough?
Treatment for cough depends on the cause. Treatment may include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines that contain guaifenesin and/or dextromethorphan (available as cough syrups and in tablet form)
- Antibiotics for infection caused by bacteria such as bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis
- Inhaled bronchodilators and inhaled steroids to treat asthma and COPD
- Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or nasal inhalers like ipratropium bromide (Atrovent) for postnasal drip
- Stomach acid reducers such as famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac) omeprazole (Prilosec, Prilosec OTC), lansoprazole (Prevacid, Prevacid 24-Hour), rabeprazole (Aciphex), pantoprazole (Protonix), esomeprazole (Nexium) to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- If cough is caused from taking an ACE inhibitor, your doctor may switch your medication
- Never stop taking a prescribed medicine without first consulting your doctor
- Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to treat pain caused by coughing
Home remedies to help relieve a cough include:
- Stay hydrated
- Gargle with warm saltwater
- Inhale steam in a shower or using a humidifier
- Suck on cough lozenges (lozenges are not recommended for young children; they can be a choking hazard)
- Avoid allergens such as pollen, dust, animals, or mold
- Avoid inhaled irritants such as smoke, dust, and other pollutants
- Don’t smoke
- For GERD: Avoid foods that increase reflux, avoid meals before lying down, elevate the head while sleeping
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