ZocdocAnswersDoes it help the body to cough?

Question

Does it help the body to cough?

I've got a pretty bad cough. I always try to suppress it, but my friend was saying that it's the body's natural way of dealing with sickness. Should I fight coughs or go along with them? Does it depend on the cough?

Answer

Cough is both a protective mechanism and a sign of disease. I would recommend seeing your primary care doctor if your continue to have a cough as it could be a symptoms of a serious or life threatening illness. Cough is a defense mechanism. The lung's airways have receptors that sense abnormal stimuli. If activated (for example by mucus from a pneumonia or a foreign body) then your body activates the cough reflex to remove the obstruction from the airways and allow for good air movement. So a cough is normal...but it indicates there is some irritation in the airway system. This can be from a sickness--like a lung infection (pneumonia) and the cough is doing its job by clearing out the bacteria or inflammatory cells. Foreign objections need to be cleared and so the reflex makes sense. However, the reflex can occasionally be fooled--for example, in reflux (heartburn) the top of the throat gets irritated and causes a cough to form even though there is nothing in the airways. A cough is a normal reflex. More so than trying to suppress it -- it is important to figure out why you are coughing. For that, seeing your primary care doctor is important. There is no reason to suppress the reflex unless it is constant and annoying. In that case, one can try cough suppressants but honestly these are rarely of benefit. If you feel the need to suppress your cough because it is becoming very severe--I would first see your doctor.

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