Cough: How it develops and what helps


Cough is a symptom of various diseases, but also a protective mechanism of the body. Here you will learn how coughing and how to get rid of it.

What is cough?

Mostly, we find coughing annoying – it is often caused by illnesses such as colds or asthma. Coughing is not only a symptom , but also an important and effective protective reflex of the body: through it we can transport mucus or foreign bodies like dust out of the airways. There are several types of cough, such as cough with sputum . But also dry cough is a variant. In addition, the phenomenon may be acute or chronic – while acute coughing often disappears after a while, chronic cough is considered very persistent.

What is acute and what is chronic cough?

The duration of coughing provides information about whether it is an acute or chronic cough:

  • Acute cough: This cough can last up to eight weeks and is often due to respiratory infections or other illnesses such as allergy.
  • Chronic cough: If the symptoms last longer than eight weeks, it is a chronic cough. This can be caused for example by chronic diseases such as asthma or the so-called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What forms of cough are there?

In medicine, a distinction is made between different forms of cough . These include:

  • Cough with sputum: Also known as “productive cough”. This form of cough forms a lot of mucus, which is usually clear. Yellowish mucus indicates an inflammation of the respiratory tract, greener on a bacterial infection. For example, acute productive cough is caused by pneumonia; chronic, productive cough, for example, indicates chronic bronchitis or COPD. Incidentally, there are also bloody sputum – the causes include, inter alia, an embolism of the lungs or a particularly severe bronchitis.
  • Dry cough : Dry cough, which is called “unproductive”, is a cough without mucus formation, which is usually due to irritation of the respiratory tract. For example, an acute dry coughing stimulus indicates an incipient cold or bronchitis, but it is also possible that the affected person has inhaled foreign bodies. Chronic irritative cough, however, is z. For chronic cold or asthma.

What causes can cough?

Coughs can have a variety of causes that differ not only in whether the symptoms are acute or chronic, but also in whether adults or children are affected. Among others, the following causes may be considered:

  • cold
  • flu
  • bronchitis
  • whooping cough
  • Croup
  • COPD
  • Sinusitis (chronic)
  • lung infection
  • allergy
  • Allergic asthma
  • Lung complaints, eg pulmonary embolism,
  • lung cancer
  • heart failure
  • reflux
  • Ingestion of foreign bodies, dust etc.
  • Side effect of various drugs

Cough in children

In children, the respiratory tract is usually more sensitive than in adults – they also suffer more often from persistent coughing after a viral infection. In addition, her body often produces excessive amounts of mucus in the nose and / or paranasal sinuses, which then runs down the throat causing coughing.

Get rid of cough: What treatment helps?

Coughing is treated according to the cause. Where: chronic cough should always be treated by a doctor, an acute cough, which can be attributed, for example, to a rather harmless cold, can also be treated by home remedies for cough. Depending on the type of cough but also different drugs can be used:

  • Cough Blocker: Dry irritated cough is treated with cough blockers. Most of these remedies act as a protective film over the irritated bronchi, relieving the urge to cough. Cough blocker is used especially in the evening, when you can not sleep due to the unproductive cough. Important: In case of mucous cough, cough blockers should not be used – they prevent the phlegm from being coughed out of the airways and thus make it easier for bacteria to settle on it. Also, a combination of cough blocker and cough remover is not recommended for this reason.
  • Cough Remover: Often the mucus in the respiratory tract is tough and difficult to cough . Cough removers help here: They make the mucus smoother and make it easier to cough up.

Do I have to take antibiotics for coughing?

Especially with persistent coughing from a cold many doctors still prescribe antibiotics. The problem is that antibiotics only work against bacteria, while most colds are caused by viruses. In order to identify the pathogen, a laboratory examination is actually necessary. 

If a bacterial infection from cough trigger is confirmed, the antibiotics should be taken – and as long as the doctor prescribes, even if the patient may already be better. If the treatment is stopped prematurely, some bacteria can survive – and develop resistance to the antibiotic.

Home remedies for cough: What really helps

Especially with a common cold, you do not always have to go directly to the doctor because of cough. Gentle home remedies for cough can help as well. These include, for example:

  • Drink a lot: If you drink a lot of water, the body helps to liquefy the mucus, which makes it easier to cough it off. It should be at least two liters daily for a cough.
  • Herbal tea: Thyme, for example, is a good cough suppressant, chamomile soothes dry cough and has an anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Inhalation: Inhalations moisturize the respiratory tract and facilitate coughing. For example, camomile or peppermint tea is suitable for this purpose.
  • Essential oils: Eucalyptus, peppermint or thyme oil also have an expectorant effect and combat germs. The oil can be rubbed on the chest, for example. Attention: essential oils are not suitable for small children and babies!

Find even more home remedies for cough in this article.

When should I go to the doctor with a cough?

Not always, a layman can assess whether the cough indicates a more dangerous disease. If the symptoms last longer and do not improve, it is always advisable to have them checked by a doctor. If the following symptoms occur in addition to the cough, the doctor should be consulted:

  • Shortness of breath, possibly even bluish lips
  • chest pain
  • High fever
  • Bloody expectoration
  • Complaints with very heavy smoking
  • Past cancer
  • Known immunodeficiency or HIV infection