Coughing is an important way to keep your throat and airways clear. However, too much coughing may mean you have a disease or disorder.
Some coughs are dry. Others are considered productive. A productive cough is one that brings up mucus. Mucus is also called phlegm or sputum.
Coughs can be either acute or chronic:
- Acute coughs usually begin suddenly and are often due to a
cold, flu, or sinus infection. They usually go away after 3 weeks.
- Subacute coughs last 3 to 8 weeks.
- Chronic coughs last longer than 3 weeks.
Recent upper airway infections, such as the common cold and flu, can cause coughs. Other common causes include:
- ACE inhibitors (medications used to control blood pressure)
- Allergic rhinosinusitis (inflammation of the nose or sinuses)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema or chronic bronchitis)
- Cigarette smoking
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
Gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD)
- Lung disease such as
bronchiectasis, interstitial lung disease, or tumors
- Lung infections such as pneumonia or acute
Sinusitisleading to postnasal drip
If a child has a barking cough, see
Review Date: 05/25/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.