Coughs: Causes, symptoms, and treatments

A cough, also known as tussis, is a voluntary or involuntary act that clears the throat and breathing passage of foreign particles, microbes, irritants, fluids, and mucus; it is a rapid expulsion of air from the lungs.

Coughing can be done deliberately or as part of a reflex. Although coughing can be a sign of a serious illness, more often, it will clear up on its own without the need for medical attention.

In this article, we will cover the possible causes, diagnosis, and treatments for coughs.

Fast facts on coughs

Here are some key points about coughs. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

Some germs use coughing to spread to new hosts.

There is a wide array of potential causes of coughs.

Some types of cough only occur at night.

If the cough is difficult to diagnose, a chest X-ray may be necessary.

Home remedies can soothe the majority of coughs.

What is a cough?

Older woman coughing
Coughs have a range of possible causes.

There are three phases to a cough:

Inhalation (breathing in).

Increased pressure in the throat and lungs with the vocal cords closed.

An explosive release of air when the vocal cords open, giving a cough its characteristic sound.

If somebody coughs a lot, it can be a sign of a disease. Many coughs are caused by infectious diseases, like the common cold, but there are also non-infectious causes. We look at some potential causes in the next section.

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