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Symptoms and treatments for coughs

A cough is a physical reaction to the irritation of breathing passages. This may be the result of a buildup of phlegm or of food or water entering the wrong passage. A frequent or persistent cough, however, is often indicative of disease.

Common diseases marked by coughing include asthma, chronic bronchitis and colds. Whooping cough, or pertussis, is rarer, particularly in most first-world countries, where a vaccine has been available for a number of years.

Knowing which coughs are normal and which require further investigation by a medical professional can be difficult. Here are some basic guidelines to help you make the call:

Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is a disease marked by periodic coughing fits in which the affected individual has difficulty breathing. It gets its name from the "whoop" sound that often followed one of these fits as the sufferer began to breathe again. However, this "whoop" is not always present.

The earliest signs of whooping cough mimic those of the common cold (runny nose, fever, mild cough), so it is usually not until one or two weeks later, when the coughing fits become longer (sometimes as long as two minutes) and more violent (the person may even turn blue), that whooping cough is diagnosed.

Whooping cough must be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Treatment usually involves antibiotics and may include hospitalization, particularly for young children.

Asthma Cough

A chronic cough, particularly a dry nighttime cough, is a common symptom of mild asthma. Asthma is a chronic disease in which the airways become swollen, making it difficult for the sufferer to breathe.

An asthma cough is typically a dry cough, meaning that no mucus or sputum is produced. It is caused by the bronchial spasms associated with asthma.

Asthma (and its accompanying cough) requires professional diagnosis and prescription treatments – usually an inhaler and / or a bronchodilator. However, you can increase the effectiveness of these treatments by eliminating or at least limiting the irritants in the asthmatic's bedroom.

Cough Treatments

For coughs due to colds, the most common treatment is cough medicine, most often in the form of syrup. Cough syrup is available over the counter in a variety of formulations for children and adults. Before purchasing cough medicine, however, it is best to consult your doctor or pharmacist about your symptoms and other health needs to ensure you get the best, most effective treatment.

Hydrocodone is a powerful cough suppressant available only by prescription because it is a narcotic. Hydrocodone cough medicines have been widely used, but the FDA is cracking down on unapproved products, especially those marketed for kids. Discuss the benefits and risks of hydrocodone with your doctor, and make sure to request an FDA-approved formulation.

Most coughs are normal, harmless reactions to environmental stimuli. However, a cough that is frequent, causes pain, creates difficulty breathing or lasts several days should be assessed by medical professional.

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