Germs, mucus, or dust can irritate the throat and airways. A cough is the body’s natural reflex action to expel the irritants from the airways. A coughing reflex prevents irritants from entering the lungs. A cough can force the irritating particles out of your throat at around 50 miles an hour. While most coughs are harmless, persistent coughs with other symptoms need to be checked by a qualified healthcare professional. 

Types of coughs and their symptoms

You could experience a dry cough or a wet cough with a lot of phlegm. Some of the common types of coughs are as follows:

  • Tickling, dry cough

When the throat does not produce enough mucus, it often results in a dry cough. Your doctor may advise you to take a demulcent (an oil or mucilaginous substance that soothes the mucus membrane) for relief. 

  • Chesty cough

When there is excessive mucus in the lungs, you will experience what is called a productive cough (cough with mucus, phlegm, or sputum). These coughs could be due to an infection or other health issues. Your doctor may prescribe expectorants to loosen the mucus in the lungs.  

  • Bronchitis 

Bronchitis occurs when the lining of the bronchial tubes gets inflamed. Coughing may produce thick, discoloured mucus. Bronchitis may be either chronic or acute. After diagnosis, your doctor may suggest ibuprofen, humidifiers, steam, and OTC cough medicines. 

  • Whooping cough or pertussis

Symptoms of whooping cough may be mild to start with but can increase dramatically with severe coughing bouts. This highly contagious disease may produce thick phlegm when coughing. Whooping cough is a serious condition, especially for young children, and vaccination is advised.

What are the common symptoms of coughing?

  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Post-nasal drip 
  • Need to clear throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness of voice
What are the common causes of coughing?

Coughing is a normal reflex action to clear the airways. However, there could be other causes that may trigger a coughing bout:

  • Infections: Sometimes coughs linger after episodes of flu, cold, TB, or pneumonia. Pertussis or whooping cough can also be a cause. 
  • Post-nasal drip: When there is excess mucus in the sinuses, the mucus drips down the back of the throat, causing coughing. 
  • COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: COPD can obstruct the airflow from the lungs, causing coughing. There may be shortness of breath and coloured sputum. 
  • Asthma: Coughs are often a symptom of asthma and can get worse when there is exposure to fragrances, chemicals, or cold air. Your medical practitioner will suggest treatment as per your symptoms. 
Coughing: When to see your doctor?

If you have the following symptoms accompanied by your cough, it’s best to see your doctor:

  • Cough that lingers on
  • Sputum or blood in cough
  • Disturbed sleep pattern

Possible risk factors

Specific triggers can set off a coughing bout. It’s best to avoid situations wherein you are exposed to the following stimuli:

  • Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Dust 
  • Allergens 


Chronic coughs can sometimes lead to a variety of complications. These include the following: 

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Fractured ribs

Most coughs resolve themselves in a few weeks. However, if the cough is persistent with thick mucus and shortness of breath, consult your doctor for treatment and remedies. Yashoda Hospital’s OPD facilities are ideal for consulting on all sorts of health-related issues. 

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Frequently Asked Questions about Cough

Dry coughs occur due to throat irritation and dryness. Apart from over-the-counter cough suppressants, you can try salt-water gargles. In such a situation, ensure that you stay hydrated.

Allergens such as mould, dust, pollen, or animal dander can lead to post-nasal drip. This, in turn, can cause coughing. As a precaution, ensure to vacuum your upholstery regularly.

Sometimes you have to exert a lot of pressure to remove the cough from your airways. This increases the pressure in your head, causing headaches.

You can prevent coughing by using air purifiers to remove allergens from your environment. However, coughs due to an infection cannot be prevented.

DTaP vaccine protects you against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. These shots are given in early childhood.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is accurate, updated and complete as per the best practices of the Company. Please note that this information should not be treated as a replacement for physical medical consultation or advice. We do not guarantee the accuracy and the completeness of the information so provided. The absence of any information and/or warning to any drug shall not be considered and assumed as an implied assurance of the Company. We do not take any responsibility for the consequences arising out of the aforementioned information and strongly recommend you for a physical consultation in case of any queries or doubts.