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Cough

Coughing is an important way to keep your throat and airways clear. But too much coughing may mean you have a disease or disorder.

Some coughs are dry. Others are productive. A productive cough is one that brings up mucus. Mucus is also called phlegm or sputum.

Coughs can be either acute or chronic:

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Coughing

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Causes

Common causes of coughing are:

Other causes include:

Home Care

If you have asthma or another chronic lung disease, make sure you are taking medicines prescribed by your health care provider.

Here are some tips to help ease your cough:

Medicines you can buy on your own include:

If you have seasonal allergies, such as hay fever:

If you have allergies year-round, cover your pillows and mattress with dust mite covers, use an air purifier, and avoid pets with fur and other triggers.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call 911 if you have:

Call your provider right away if a person with cough has any of the following:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will perform a physical exam. You will be asked about your cough. Questions may include:

The provider will examine your ears, nose, throat, and chest.

Tests that may be done include:

Treatment depends on the cause of the cough.

Related Information

Common cold
Flu
H1N1 influenza (Swine flu)
Colds and the flu - what to ask your doctor - adult
Colds and the flu - what to ask your doctor - child
When your baby or infant has a fever

References

Chung KF, Mazzone SB. Cough. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 30.

Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 83.

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Review Date: 5/21/2017  

Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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