ZocdocAnswersWhy do people cough?

Question

Why do people cough?

Sometimes I get a dry cough for an extended period of time that doesn't make any sense. I mean, why is my body trying to cough if there's nothing to cough up? What makes people cough in the first place if it's just an irritation and opens the window to possible infections?

Answer

The most common cause of dry cough during winter months is simply the irritation of the lining of the passages of the lungs by the dry air. The treatment of this problem involves protecting yourself from the cold and perhaps using humidified air. Another cause of chronic cough can include poorly controlled asthma, which is caused by inflammation in and constriction of the passages in the lungs. Asthma is typically treated with inhaled medications prescribed by your doctor. Nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, is another common cause of cough, caused with inflammation of the nose causes mucus to drip down the throat, provoking cough. It is typically treated with antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays. Finally, heart burn or acid reflux, can cause irritation of the esophagus and throat which can also lead to a chronic cough that is often worse when lying down. As always the diagnosis and management of your particular condition will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Setting up an office visit with your primary care doctor is recommended.

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