What Kind of Cough Do I Have?

AdobeStock_292971028_small.jpgAt times, it might feel like a cough is a cause for alarm. Coughing is one of your body’s ways of clearing irritants, so a cough could just mean that you inhaled some dust or other irritant. It’s a defensive reflex after all! Coughing can also be a symptom of illness or allergies, so it’s helpful to recognize when the cough is just a cough and when it’s an indicator of something else.

First, let’s talk about the conditions and characteristics involved:

  • When and how often is the cough?
  • How long does the cough last?
  • Does the cough sound or feel dry, wet, or hacking?
  • Does your cough cause other symptoms like sleeplessness, vomiting, or even incontinence?
  • Is the cough debilitating, persistent, or just annoying?

It should be noted that if the cough is related to an inability to breathe, then immediate medical attention is critical as it could be caused by choking. Other symptoms of choking can include a blue tone to the skin, inability to speak or cry, loss of consciousness, wheezing, whistling noises, or panic.

Dry cough. Dry coughs feel like a tickle in the back of your throat, which then triggers the coughing reflex. This type of cough can be tricky to control because they’re due to irritation. They can also linger for weeks after a cold or flu. They can be caused by a number of illnesses, or from irritants like pollen, pollution, dust, or even smoke.

Wet cough. Also referred to as a productive cough, this type of cough typically accompanies a cold of the flu. It’s your body’s way of bringing up mucus so that it can be expelled from your nose, throat, lungs, and connecting airways. This type of cough can usually last around three weeks, but can sometimes last more than eight weeks depending on the cause.

Paroxysmal cough. Uncontrollable, violent coughing is characteristic of this type of cough and tends to leave patients feeling exhausted and in pain. Some people even vomit and have trouble getting a breath. Whooping cough is a type of paroxysmal cough, and it’s caused by a bacterial infection.

Does every cough require seeing a doctor? It really depends on the type of cough, the duration, and other health factors. If the cough is accompanied by fever, shortness of breath, dehydration, extreme fatigue, or difficulty breathing, or a cough lasting more than eight weeks,  then it’s crucial to seek medical care. If you have questions, we’re here for you at 706-248-6860.