What Causes a Cough?


Occasional coughing is natural and healthy – it’s your body’s way of responding when something irritates your throat or airways. If an irritant stimulates your nerves, a message is sent to your brain. The brain then tells the muscles in your chest and abdomen to push air out of your lungs and force the irritant out. As a result, you cough. Sometimes, the velocity of air being forced from the lungs can reach speeds up to 800 km per hour.

What is a cold or flu-related cough?

Man Coughing

A cough that is brought on by a cold or the flu is usually dry and persistent. Over time, it may worsen, becoming uncomfortable, and even painful. In addition, it’s not uncommon to experience chest discomfort and shortness of breath. In general, it usually lasts about 2 weeks.

Is a cold or flu-related cough serious?

Coughs can be irritating and even sometimes painful, but they usually go away in a couple of weeks. While you can usually go to work or school, remember that you’re probably still contagious, so make sure to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often and always cough into a tissue or your sleeve. If your cough doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks, it’s probably time to see a doctor.

What can you do to ease your coughing fits?

A cough can be annoying but there are some great home remedies that can really help, try these tips to ease your cough:

  • Try cough drops or hard candies. They may ease a dry cough and soothe an irritated throat. However, don't give them to a child under age 6 because of the risk of choking.
  • Take honey. A teaspoon of honey can help loosen a cough. However, don't give honey to children younger than 1 year old.
  • Moisturize the air. Use a vaporizer or take a steamy shower.
  • Drink fluids. Liquid helps thin the mucus in your throat. Warm liquids, such as broth, tea or lemon juice can soothe your throat.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke. Smoking or breathing secondhand smoke can make your cough worse.

If your cough is causing a lot of discomfort, try an over-the-counter cough medicine, like NeoCitran, that contains dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant.