Friday, October 4, 2013

Health Care and Coughing

A cough is a sudden and often repetitively occurring reflex which helps to clear the large breathing passages from secretions, irritants, foreign particles and microbes. The cough reflex consists of three phases: an inhalation, a forced exhalation against a closed glottis, and a violent release of air from the lungs following opening of the glottis, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound. Coughing is either voluntary or involuntary. A cough is the most common reason for visiting a primary care physician in the United States.

According to Healthline, coughing to clear the throat is typically an infrequent action, although there are a number of other conditions that can cause more frequent bouts of coughing. In general, a cough that lasts for less than three weeks is known as an acute cough. A cough that lasts between three weeks and eight weeks, improving by the end of the period, is known as a sabacute cough. A persistent cough that lasts for over eight weeks is known as a chronic cough.

Most coughs will clear up, or at least significantly improve, within two weeks. If you cough up blood or have a “barking” cough, consult with a doctor. Any cough that has not improved after a few weeks may be serious and you should see a doctor. More info can be found here at this website: http://www.healthline.com/health/cough .

Acute coughs can be divided into infectious (caused by an infection) and noninfectious causes, according to emedicinehealth.com. The easiest way to simplify the causes of chronic cough is to divide them into their locations with respect to the lungs. The categories are environmental irritants, conditions within the lungs, conditions along the passages that transmit air from the lungs to the environment, conditions within the chest cavity but outside of the lungs, and digestive causes. Much more detailed description can be found at this site: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/coughs/article_em.htm .

Coughs can be caused by a number of reasons, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 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)
•Asthma
•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 bronchitis
•Sinusitis leading to postnasal drip

Although coughing can be a troubling symptom, it is usually your body's way of healing, according to the NIH. Here are some tips to help ease your cough:

•If you have a dry, tickling cough, try cough drops or hard candy. NEVER give these to a child under age 3, because they can cause choking.
•Use a vaporizer or take a steamy shower. Both these things increase the moisture in the air and can help soothe a dry throat.
•Drink plenty of fluids. Liquids help thin the mucus in your throat and make it easier to cough it up.

NOTE: Medical experts have recommended against using cough and cold drugs in children under age 6. Talk to your doctor before your child takes any type of over-the-counter cough medicine, even if it is labeled for children. These medicines likely will not work for children, and they may have serious side effects. Medications available without a prescription include:

•Guaifenesin helps break up mucus. Drink lots of fluids if you take this medicine.
•Decongestants help clear a runny nose and relieve postnasal drip. Do NOT give children under age 6 an over-the-counter decongestant unless specifically told to do so by your doctor. You should check with your doctor before taking decongestants if you have high blood pressure.

Do not expect a doctor to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections like colds or flu. Antibiotics do not work on viruses. Antibiotics also will not help coughs from allergies. More details about coughing can also be found at this website: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003072.htm .

A persistent cough (chronic cough) is a common symptom prompting people to visit the doctor. Annoying effects of coughing, such as loss of sleep, sore chest muscles and leaking urine, can affect your quality of life and interfere with your daily activities, according to About.com. What does it mean if you have a cough that just won't go away?

A persistent cough doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be worried about lung cancer. There are many possible causes of this symptom, only one of which is lung cancer. But since the less common causes are often missed for some time, it is important to make an appointment to see your doctor even if you believe there is a good explanation. More detailed info can be viewed on this site: http://lungcancer.about.com/od/symptoms/a/Persistent-Cough.htm .

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the following measures to contain respiratory secretions from coughing are recommended for all individuals with signs and symptoms of a respiratory infection.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing;
• Use in the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use;
• Perform hand hygiene (e.g., hand washing with non-antimicrobial soap and water, alcohol-based hand rub, or antiseptic handwash) after having contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.

Healthcare facilities should ensure the availability of materials for adhering to Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette in waiting areas for patients and visitors.

• Provide tissues and no-touch receptacles for used tissue disposal.
• Provide conveniently located dispensers of alcohol-based hand rub; where sinks are available, ensure that supplies for hand washing (i.e., soap, disposable towels) are consistently available.

More details about this topic can be found at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/resphygiene.htm , and this one: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/covercough.htm .

Coughing may be very temporary or more serious. The determination of the cause of a cough usually begins by determining if it is specific or nonspecific in nature. A specific cough is one associated with other symptoms and further workup is dependent on these symptoms while a non specific cough occurs without other signs and symptoms. If your cough is consistent with no real apparent reason, it’s time to see your doctor. Always be pro-active with your health and practice preventive measures. See your family physician or go to a medical clinic to seek a diagnosis. Don’t try to figure it out on your own, especially if you are not a licensed health care practitioner. Coughing is inconvenient, but it can also be a sign of something more serious.

Until next time.

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