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June 20, 2018  |  Login
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Coughing is a normal part of the body's immune system and respiratory defense system. Quick, sudden bursts of air and fluids from the respiratory tract help expel microbes, dust, chemicals, and other irritants, as well as foreign objects, from the ­ airway.

Coughing can be a symptom of an underlying infection of the bronchial tubes or lungs, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or croup. In some cases, it can suggest more serious diseases, such as asthma, lung cancer, or heart problems.

The goal in treating a cough is to address the underlying cause. For example, with infections, the immune system must be stimulated, and for allergy-produced coughs, the allergen must be removed or you must become desensitized to it. In any case, remember not to suppress a cough too much. In cases of infection, this is particularly true. The goal is to allow the body to expel foreign matter and to detoxify, while simultaneously soothing the cough to make a person more comfortable. This will prevent suppression of the disease, so that it doesn't turn into something more serious (such as bronchitis becoming pneumonia).

Be aware that certain drugs, such as some blood pressure medications, are known to cause coughing as a potential side effect.

If a cough lasts more than two weeks or if you have difficulty breathing or blood in the sputum, consult a doctor immediately.

Next: What are the Symptoms of a Cough

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