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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Cough
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

A cough is a sudden, noisy expulsion of air from the lungs.

What is going on in the body?

Coughing is usually a reflex response of the body caused by an irritation in the throat or windpipe. A reflex response means that the body does something automatically, without a person thinking about it. This reflex helps to protect the lungs from bacteria, viruses, dust, and other damaging substances. However, people can cough on purpose if they want or need to. There are many possible causes of a cough, ranging from allergies to lung infections and cancer.

What are the causes and risks of the symptom?

There are a number of things that can cause a cough, including the following:

  • ACE inhibitors, which are medications that are often used to treat high blood pressure
  • allergies
  • asthma
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also called COPD, such as emphysema
  • congestive heart failure, which can cause fluid buildup in the lungs and make a person cough
  • exposure to certain chemicals or gases, such as car exhaust
  • a foreign body in the windpipe, which can happen when a small child puts objects in his or her mouth
  • gastroesophageal reflux, or heartburn
  • lung or throat infections, such as strep throat, acute bronchitis, or pneumonia
  • miscellaneous conditions, such as a neurological disorder known as Tourette syndrome
  • postnasal drip syndrome, which occurs when mucus from the nose and sinuses drains down the back of the throat
  • smoking
  • tumors or cancer, including lung cancer
  • Other causes are also possible. Sometimes no cause can be found for a person's coughing.


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    Cough: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 08/06/01

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