Symptoms Cough - what can you do?

Coughing is an important protective mechanism when swallowed and crumbs go wrong. In addition, coughing also occurs in many diseases, for example in the context of a cold, bronchitis or even a heart failure. We explain how to help your body get rid of the cough.

Causes of cough

Coughing is not a disease but a symptom, that is, it can be a sign of various illnesses. If the cough lasts longer than eight weeks, it is called a chronic cough.

When we cough, the diaphragm contracts and the air from our lungs is jerked out - along with the air, debris, dust, pathogens or mucus are swallowed out. Our respiratory tract, the nose, throat, and trachea, as well as the bronchi, the branches of the trachea in the lungs, are lined with so-called ciliated epithelium, which produces mucilaginous fluid and moisturizes the air.


The most common cause of cough is bronchitis, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchi. Acute bronchitis often occurs in a cold caused by viruses and usually runs uncomplicated. First there is a dry, irritating cough, which can be very tormenting, especially at night. In the further course of the cold, the ciliated epithelium produces increased mucus, which is initially firm and tough and can be badly coughed off. In this case we speak of a stuck, unproductive cough.

If the mucus becomes more fluid over time, it can be coughed off more easily. In this loose, productive cough along with the mucus and the pathogens are transported from the lungs.

Other causes may include the inhalation of irritants, such as smoke or acid, or infectious diseases such as measles or whooping cough. Bacterial bronchitis causes mucopurulent discharge. Here usually a treatment with antibiotics is necessary.

The recurrence of acute bronchitis can lead to chronic bronchitis, that is, over a period of two years, the symptoms of bronchitis appear for at least three months. Permanent damage to the lungs, for example, from smoke, dust or chronic heart and kidney disease causes chronic bronchitis, with the typical "smoker's cough" in the morning with slimy-white expectoration. Serious consequences include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in which the bronchi collapse over time, or emphysema. The chronic inflammation destroys the alveoli.


Often coughing also occurs in a cold caused by viruses. The viruses irritate the mucous membrane of the nose, throat and trachea, lead to colds and sore throat and cough may accompany it. The cough develops, similar to a bronchitis, first of all from the coughing over the unproductive to the productive coughing.

Allergies and asthma

Coughing is a typical symptom of respiratory allergies, as the immune system reacts to the allergenic agents to produce more mucus in the bronchi. Sometimes asthma can be triggered by an allergy.

Coughing can also be a sign of asthma. In asthma, the mucous membranes of the bronchi are particularly sensitive and easily inflamed. In addition, mostly respiratory problems and a typical buzzing ("giemendes") breathing noise occur.


In sinusitis, the sinuses from the nose are inflamed. As a result, the Flimmerepitel of the mucous membrane produces increased secretions, which especially at night expires from the paranasal sinuses, enters the respiratory tract and there triggers a coughing stimulus. In addition to fever, purulent rhinitis and pain in the forehead, this also causes coughing.

Other causes

Coughing may also occur, for example, in heart failure, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or as a side effect with some medications (such as ACE inhibitors). Fortunately, rarely is a tumor in the lungs the cause of cough - but just for a cough that lasts more than six weeks, this cause must be excluded.

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