Coughing and Sneezing Causes and Treatment

Coughing and Sneezing Causes and Treatment

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Coughing and Sneezing Causes and Treatment

Coughing is a natural defence mechanism of the body. It is a reflex action which helps expel any phlegm, foreign body, or irritative focus from .the respiratory tract. The bronchi and the trachea (wind pipe) and the larynx are extremely sensitive to any irritation. The alveoli (air spaces) in the lungs are especially sensitive to chemicals.

A sneeze is very like a cough in the sense that it is also a protective mechanism. However it is an action limited to the nasal passages.

Coughing is under voluntary and involuntary control i.e. it is initiated at the central nervous system (CNS) level as well as at will. The CNS control is lost in certain disease conditions. In semiconscious states, or under the influence of anaesthesia, depressive drugs and head injury this reflex is diminished or lost. Secretions then pour into the lungs, and cannot be expelled giving rise to sputum retention, infection, and even death.

A cough can be dry, when there is no sputum e.g. in a common cold, upper respiratory tract infection, dry dusty atmosphere, asthma, allergy and in case of the side effects of drugs etc.

When there is associated phlegm it is a wet or productive cough. This phlegm or sputum maybe simple mucous or have pus in it, e.g. a prolonged cold which does not seem to get better in a day or two, chest infections which are chronic—bronchitis, bronchiactasis, tuberculosis and malignancies.

A cough may have a sputum which is bloody, or has specks of blood. This is called haemoptysis. This occurs in chronic chest infections like tuberculosis, pneumonia, lung cancer or due to cardiac conditions e.g. mitral stenosis and congestive heart failure.

May or may not be accompanied by fever.

Is accompanied by loss of weight, unusual fatigue, loss of appetite.

A simple cough responds to simple remedies like plenty of fluids taken orally, steam inhalations and avoiding dusty, polluted atmosphere.

In smokers, abstaining from smoking relieves the cough. Irritant feeling in the throat can be relieved by lozenges which give more relief by their pleasant taste rather than any other action.

The aim of treatment is to relieve the discomfort caused due to the act of coughing and to treat the cause. The cough can be relieved by:

Dry cough—cough suppressants which soothe the irritation.

Wet cough—cough expectorants which help the patient bring up the phlegm.

Sputum liquefier—in some cases the patient feels there is phlegm in the chest but he cannot bring it up. Steam inhalations and sputum liquefiers help to soften the phlegm which is then coughed out.

In cases of asthma or allergy there is a spasm of the bronchial muscles which causes not only a cough but difficulty in the total act of breathing. Bronchodilators are drugs given to relieve this spasm. Bronchodilators act at different levels to produce the same results, so taking two or three different brands may cause problems due to drug interaction, or additive effect. Hence, these drugs should be prescribed by a physician.

The cause of a cough is treated by antiallergies, antibiotics, or the underlying heart condition as the case may be. All these drugs too should only be taken on a physicians prescription.

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Coughing and Sneezing Causes and Treatment

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