Cough overview

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] ; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Cafer Zorkun, M.D., Ph.D. [2], M.Umer Tariq [3]

Overview

A cough is a sudden, often repetitive, spasmodic contraction of the thoracic cavity, resulting in violent release of air from the lungs, and usually accompanied by a distinctive sound.

Coughing is an action the body takes to get rid of substances that are irritating the air passages. A cough is usually initiated to clear a buildup of phlegm in the trachea. Coughing can also be triggered by a bolus of food entering the trachea rather than the esophagus due to a failure of the epiglottis. Frequent or chronic coughing usually indicates the presence of a disease. Provided the patient is a non-smoker and has a normal chest X-ray, the cause of chronic cough in 93% of all patients is due to asthma, heartburn or post-nasal drip. Other causes of chronic cough include chronic bronchitis and medications such as ACE inhibitors. Coughing can happen voluntarily as well as involuntarily.

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