What is Causing My Cough?

Coughs are the body's way of getting rid of irritants or mucus build-up from the throat and respiratory tracts. They can also be a reaction to allergens and health triggers

AlliApp Health Team May 1 · 4 mins read

Acute coughs

  • Most acute coughs are caused by colds and flu viruses, and will clear up once your immune system has vanquished the ‘bug’. Usually they are accompanied by other symptoms – eg a headache, sore throat, sneezing, runny nose – so are fairly easy to recognise. Though irritating, the duration of an acute cough can be made less uncomfortable with hot lemon and honey drinks, or with herbal teas like ginger or mint. This article outlines 12 natural cough remedies you could try.

Commercial cough medicines and tinctures can also soothe a sore throat or the ‘tickle’ of your cough, though they won’t clear up the infection. (Cough medicines should not be given to children under the age of four, and from 4 -6 yrs, only with the advice of a doctor).

  • Inhaling smoke or dust can provoke an immediate cough.
  • Sinus infections can cause mucus to back up in the throat, causing repeated coughing
  • A flare-up of a long term condition like asthma or bronchitis can cause a cough that lasts for less than three weeks (though sometimes, for longer). Symptoms need to be identified and monitored by a doctor if asthma or bronchitis are suspected.
  • Pneumonia is an LRTI (lower respiratory tract infection) that can bring on an acute cough. An inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs (one or both), it can be caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses.

Persistent coughs

  • Allergic responses are some of the main causes of persistent coughing. If you are exposed to possible allergens that affect air quality, for example, you can develop conditions like hay fever, or asthma that will need to be monitored and controlled with a possible change of diet and with medication. Some allergic conditions are seasonal; eg when the pollen count is high in the summer it can trigger hay fever; house dust mite allergy is sometimes more prevalent from autumn onwards.

A premium health-tracker app like AlliApp, that records air pollution levels as well as the food you eat and the medications you take, can help you keep track of what is causing your allergic cough.

  • Smoking can cause regular coughing or ‘smoker’s cough’ as it dries the throat and airways but also produces mucus in the lower respiratory tract. Smoker’s cough can be a sign of a more deep-rooted condition like bronchitis or emphysema, so a visit to the doctor is advised if the cough is persistent.
  • GORD or acid reflux can cause persistent outbreaks of coughing. It is caused by stomach acid backing up into the oesophagus. Our sister article GORD – its symptoms and causes explains the relationship between certain foods and outbreaks of GORD. As with allergic reactions, GORD can be caused by specific foods, and a day-to-day diary of everything you eat is an essential tool in deciding how to prevent the symptoms of acid reflux.
  • Both bronchitis and asthma can have flare-ups that cause coughing, which can be persistent and ongoing, as well as acute (lasting less than three weeks)
  • Whooping cough, or pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the airways and lungs. It is particularly bad for babies and young children.

Rarer, more serious conditions

Though a cough is common, and can be caused by many differing health issues, more serious and rarer conditions like lung cancer, cystic fibrosis and heart disease can bring on a persistent cough. Constant coughing for more than three weeks requires that you see a doctor to find out its cause, and rule out any ongoing and potentially serious conditions.

If, along with coughing, you have swellings or lumps in your neck, unexplained weight loss, a persistent change in the quality of your voice, acute chest pain, or if you cough up blood or find breathing difficult, you’re advised to visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Keep a diary

Once any more identifiable conditions are ruled out, you may be advised to keep a diary of what you eat and where you go, to find out if the cough is caused by an allergy, or a reaction to your food and/or air quality.  The AlliApp health-tracker app has been designed to help you keep track of all possible health triggers. Downloaded  to your phone, it can pinpoint and comprehensively record anything that may negatively impact on your health. This is an effective and proactive way to help yourself back to good health.