Doctor's Advice Blogs

Cough: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

A cough is a reflex action to clear the throat from mucus and the external irritants such as the dust particles, smoke, microbes, and fluids etc. In short, the cough is a quick eviction of air from the lungs, which passes through the mouth. It is a common reflex that helps remove the obstruction of breathing and does not need immediate medical attention at the initial stage. However, if a cough lasts longer, it may possibly a sign of the serious disease as well.

A cough can be divided into two parts viz. an Acute Cough and Chronic Cough. Coughs that last not more than 2 to 3 weeks are called Acute Cough while Chronic Coughs last longer than 3 weeks and can be dangerous for health. These kinds of coughs are known as the Persistent Coughs as well.


Causes of Acute Coughs (Short-Term Coughs)

A quite common infection that causes the Acute Coughs is called the Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, which is also known as the URI or URTI. This infection affects the throat, trachea and sinuses, which triggers flu, common cold, and Laryngitis.

Another reason that causes Acute Coughs is called the Lower Respiratory Tract Infection (LRTI), which affects the lungs and lower airways. This infection causes Pneumonia and Bronchitis. Besides, Acute Coughs can cause the Hay Fever as well.


Causes of Chronic or Persistent Coughs (Long-Term Coughs)

There can be a number of reasons that cause the Chronic Coughs such as smoking, Asthma, Bronchitis, post-nasal drip, Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) or Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) etc.

Smoking :

A cough caused by the smoking is often called the ‘Smoker’s Cough’. It usually lasts longer and may lead to loads of complications in the respiratory system of the body including the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which obstructs the lung and creates several breathing problems and poor airflow for a long-term.

Asthma :

Asthmatic Coughs include symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and tiredness etc. This type of coughs increases during the nights and cause difficulty sleeping.

Bronchitis :

Bronchitis is a type of inflammation that damages the bronchial tubes, which carries the air to the lungs. It produces thick mucus that can further result in bronchial tubes to be swelled and/ or blocked.

Post-Nasal Drip :

The body produces mucus, a thick, wet and stingy fluid substance, on a regular basis to help gets rid of the external dust particles and virus. Usually, it is not noticeable and drips down the throat from the back of the nose. However, when the body produces an excessive amount of mucus, it comes out of the nostrils and mouth and causes running nose.

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) or Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) :

The Acute Coughs often cause stomach acid to leak up into the tube that joints mouth and stomach, which is called oesophagus/ esophageal or gullet. The tube is also known as the food pipe. GORD usually leads to the heartburn and affects the taste buds as well.

Types of Coughs

Coughs can further be divided into four distinct categories namely Croup Coughs, Dry Coughs, Wet Coughs and Whooping Coughs. Let us know about these four types of coughs first.

Croup Coughs :

Croup is an infection that is caused by the viruses and bacteria, and affects the Larynx, also called the voice box, trachea, known as the windpipe and the bronchial tubes that supply air to the lungs. Croup Coughs are usually contagious, especially at the initial stages. It irritates the Upper Respiratory Tract and makes it swelled that causes complications while breathing.

Dry Coughs :

Dry Coughs are often caused by several factors such as the infection in the nose and throat, allergies air pollution, change in the temperature, dry atmosphere and acid reflux etc. It produces very less or no mucus during the infection and is also known as the Tickly Coughs and Non-Productive Coughs.

Wet Coughs :

Wet Coughs are also known as the Chesty Coughs and Productive Coughs. This type of coughs produces a large amount of mucus and phlegm, which is stored in the Lower Respiratory Tract due to the infection and/ or asthma. Wet Cough occurs to remove the additional mucus through the nostrils and mouth.

Whooping Coughs :

Whooping Coughs are also known as the Pertussis. This type of coughs is caused by the bacterial infection into the Upper Respiratory Tract and is highly contagious. Some of the symptoms the Whooping Coughs cause include the running nose, fever, nasal blockage, watery eyes, and extreme fatigue in some cases.


Cough Symptoms and Signs

  • Sore throat
  • Heartburn
  • Excessive production of the mucus and phlegm
  • Blocked nasal
  • Running nose
  • Post-nasal drips
  • Unpleasant and sore taste
  • Hoarseness

These are the common symptoms, in case of multiple symptoms

Complications of Cough

While Acute Cough is a protective function that removes the blockage in the airways and fights the external bacteria and germs, Chronic Cough can sometimes be quite dangerous and can lead to many other serious diseases. Some of the common and major complications that cough causes include:

Fainting and Dizziness

The severe coughs sometimes cause fainting and dizziness and are often known as the Cough Syncope. It affects the sensory organs and reduces the blood flow to the brain while coughing, which can lead to major damages. Usually, Asthma, Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Whooping Coughs, and some kinds of heart diseases cause fainting during the coughs.


Insomnia is a sleep disorder, which is among the common complications caused by the coughs. Regular production of mucus makes the body release it through the coughs and makes it difficult to sleep at nights. The post-nasal drips and symptoms of GERD are the two main causes that increase the chances of having insomnia.

Abdominal Hernia

Chronic Coughs often cause throat infection, which can spread throughout the body and can affect other parts as well; and can lead to tearing the abdominal wall. This condition is however quite rare. Usually, the abdominal hernia caused by other infections or diseases is hard to identify, however, the hernia caused by the coughs are easily identified.

Fractured Ribs

As per the article published by the World Journal of Emergency Surgery in 2006, fractured ribs caused by the Chronic Coughs are among the quite common complications occurred by the coughs. It mainly occurs in the old adults and has an effect on women for the most part. Chronic Coughs majorly affect the middle ribs and increased the chances of attacking the people having low bone density.


The severe Persistent Coughs affect the gas exchange in the lungs and blocks the necessary amount of oxygen required by the body tissues. This condition is called the Hypoxia. Hypoxia caused by the Persistent Coughs commonly attacks infants and babies as compared to the adults. Furthermore, Whooping Coughs develop the bacteria in the body that cause the Pneumonia, which may increase the risks of getting Brain Hypoxia.


Other Complications of Cough

  • Headache
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Cough-induced urine leakage
  • Hoarse voice
  • Muscle uneasiness
  • Small blood vessel injury
  • Inflammation in the throat tissues
  • Coughing up blood


How to Prevent Coughing?

  • Avoid the extreme change in the temperature, such as the sudden exposure to the Sun or moving to the air-conditioned rooms from the heat outside.
  • Avoid taking warm bath late at nights or early in the morning.
  • Avoid consuming pickles and fried foods as sour food items increase the chances of getting a cough
  • Avoid extremely cold food items, especially the cold drinks and ice creams
  • Keep the hands and body clean to get rid of the germs
  • Keep the house clean and make sure bathroom and kitchen are hygienic and germ-free
  • Avoid getting in touch with dust
  • Keep the rooms ventilated with filtered air-conditioning system
  • Keep the body hydrated and consume enough water or any other beverages
  • Avoid being in contact with the infected people. Many types of coughs are contagious and transmit the bacteria very quickly.
  • Have proper sleep
  • Avoid consuming alcohol and smoking


Cough Diagnosis

The doctor starts the diagnosis procedure with examining the throat and test out if the infection persists. Further analysis includes listening to the sound of coughs and enquiring about the symptoms the patient is having. If the patient has the bacterial infection that causes coughs, the doctor will recommend some oral antibiotics.

Cough Treatment

Generally, there is no need to have intense treatment for mild and Acute Coughs as it usually does not harm the body severely at the initial stages. Such mild coughs can be treated at some by consuming fluids and keeping the body hydrated. Taking painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen will also work. However, if the coughs persist for weeks and becoming rigorous day by day, a medical care is required immediately.


Home Remedies for Cough

Treatment of Cough by Honey

Honey is being used to cure the coughs since the centuries now and is considered as one of the most effective remedies for coughs. Having honey with warm tea, warm lemon water or even with the grape juice helps soothe a sore throat. Drinking honey alone is also quite effective as it coats the throat and lessens the irritation caused by the infection.

(Note: Do not give honey to infants and babies under the age of one year as it contains the bacterium called Clostridium Botulinum, which may increase the risks of infant botulism).

Treatment of Cough by Herbal Tea

Drinking a couple of cups tea helps tame coughs as fluids soothe the throat and reduces the infection. One of the best parts of having tea is one can experiment the drink with several herbs and spices such as ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, honey, and clove etc. Further, adding turmeric, marshmallow root, or liquorice root is a scientifically proven treatment to cure coughs.

Treatment of Cough by Steam Inhalation

One of the great ways to treat Chronic Coughs includes inhaling the steam. It helps reduce the amount of mucus and phlegm stored in the lungs and helps hydrate the airways, thus, providing relief in a cough and cold. Using eucalyptus oil while inhaling steam proves to be quite helpful in reducing the mucus.

Treatment of Cough by Warm Water

Water, as always, is the best remedy to cure both Acute and Chronic Coughs. While gargling with salted water helps cure the swollen throat tissues, adding lemon, honey and eucalyptus leaves in the warm water helps reduce the soreness in the throat.

Treatment of Cough by Peppermint Leaves

Peppermint has the menthol possessions that reduce the congestion produced by the mucus and helps soothe the throat from infection. Peppermint’s antibacterial properties help relax the muscles that cause fever and sore throat. Drinking peppermint tea with honey is also a proven remedy that is often used to cure Wet Cough.

(Note: Avoid giving peppermint to infants as it can cause burning mouth and tongue.)

Treatment of Cough by Lemon

Lemon is also an effective remedy to calm the soaring throat caused by the infection. Lemon has the Antioxidants and Vitamin C that helps stimulate saliva and reduce the throat irritation. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle black pepper and salt on it. Squeeze it in the mouth and slurp it to get an instant relief. Drinking lemon juice with added honey in it is also quite helpful to cure coughs.

Treatment of Cough by Garlic

Garlic possesses antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that help restore the Upper Respiratory Tract from throat infections. Boil a cup of water and add garlic, two to three cloves and one teaspoon honey and mix in properly. Wait for 5 to 10 minutes and let it cool to a room temperature. Once its temperature gets down, drink it.

Treatment of Cough by Almonds

Almond is believed to have the nutritional properties that help relieve bronchial problems. Soak few almonds in the water at night and make a smooth paste of it in the morning. Add teaspoon butter or sip it with the orange juice. Repeat this activity for a couple of days to remove the symptoms of coughs.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1) How to know if a cough is normal or due to some disease?

Ans: Coughing is normal as long as it does not affect the lifestyle majorly. However, coughing up blood or mucus needs immediate medical attention.


2) What if a cough lasts even after quit smoking?

Ans: Smoking develops COPD that causes a cough. However, it can be diagnosed with a test called Spirometry.


3) Can a cough persist due to more than one causes?

Ans: Yes, there can be multiple causes that originate coughs.

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Marfan Syndrome

Marfan Syndrome

Tissues are the building blocks of our bodies. They form the organs and body parts. There are four kinds of tissues in the body which are: connective, epithelial, nervous and muscle. It is the connective tissue which gets affected by the Marfan syndrome. It is an inherited disease. The main function of the connective tissues is to provide support, strength and elasticity to the most important parts of the human body like the heart, blood vessels and cartilage.



In Marfan syndrome, the chemical composition of the connective tissues is affected and becomes abnormal. This leads to their improper functioning and they are then unable to provide the required amount of strength to the body. Almost the whole body gets affected when a person is down with Marfan syndrome. Vital organs like eyes, blood vessels, heart, skin, muscles are all affected. This syndrome is not uncommon. In the US, one out of five thousand people is suffering from it, irrespective of their backgrounds in terms of race.



The symptoms of the Marfan syndrome are not very specific and they can vary even between people belonging to the same family, even though it is an inherited disease. If a family is affected by this disease, then some of the members might face only mild effects, but others might have to go through major complications associated with it. Also, note that this disease worsens as the age of the person grows. Below are the signs of the presence of Marfan syndrome in the human body:

-  If the body of the person is quite thin and their height is also tall, it could be a sign of Marfan syndrome. Since there are many people with such body type, this symptom alone should not be trusted for diagnosing this syndrome.

-  The body develops fingers, legs and arms in an improper proportion. This can be measured and compared with some people around to know the normal ratio between the size of legs, arms and fingers.

-  People with the Marfan syndrome also often have their breastbone which either protrudes towards the outside or sinks inwards.

-  The palate in the mouth can have a high arch.

-  The teeth can be crowded.

-  Abnormal nearsightedness.

-  Abnormal curvature of the spine.

-  Arch issues in the feet or flat feet in other terms.

-  Heart murmurs- which means there is some abnormal sound which appears in between the heartbeats.

Causes :

Unfortunately, there is not much that a person can do to save themselves from this disease. This is basically a genetic issue which is responsible for making the body produce a special kind of protein. That protein, in turn, gives the strength and essential elasticity to the connective tissue. That protein is known as Fibrillin. This is how the Marfan syndrome is directly related to the strength and elasticity in the body.

As this is a genetic issue, most people get it from their parents. Even if one of the parents has this disease, the chances of the child getting this disease increases. The chances are 50 percent. Even if the couple has multiple children, the probability of each child getting this disease is also 50-50. This is dependent on whether the child inherits the defective gene or not.

However, 25 percent of those who are down with Marfan syndrome did not inherit the disease from their parents. These are those cases where the mutation is newly formed and might be continued in their successors.

Also, the occurrence of this disease is not dependent on the gender of the person. It has been found that the occurrence of this disease is equal in men and women. Though present at birth also, this disease might not get diagnosed even till adulthood.


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How is it diagnosed?

The test for Marfan Syndrome is not a straightforward one. It can be complex to diagnose this disease. Genetic testing can help in diagnosing, but it will not be the sole way to find out. This is because there could be other problems with the connective tissues. The doctors will also advise thorough examination of eyes, vessels, muscles as well as the skeletal system. They will surely also enquire about the family history in this case because it is the most important factor in determining whether the person has the chance of getting Marfan syndrome or not.

These tests alone might not be enough to prove that the disease exists. The patient might have to go through other tests like a chest X-ray, or electrocardiogram or even echocardiogram. These last two tests specified are used for measuring the rhythm of the heart.

If things get more complicated, even an MRI or a CT scan might also be required. It depends on whether the results of echocardiogram were successful enough in revealing the required information or not.

These tests will also be useful for finding out the issue of Dural Ectasia. It is the problem related to the back and is common among people who have Marfan Syndrome.

In some other cases, the patient might even have to go for Slit Lamp test which is for the eye. In this test, the doctors make a check for the dislocation of the lenses.


Because this disease is mostly a genetic one, prevention is nearly impossible. There are not many things that can be done to completely avoid getting this disease. However, pregnant women can take care to avoid their children from getting this disease. If any lady has this disease already and if they are planning a pregnancy, they must go for some counselling where doctors can give advice as such cases are high-risk ones. In the case where the size of the aorta is alright, the chances of dissection are quite low. But it does not imply that they are absent.  Even the size is minutely large, the chances of the syndrome are increased. Stress during pregnancy also causes this fast dilation. Therefore, it is important for women to go for frequent checks to measure the blood pressure and even echocardiograms while they are pregnant. Based on the results of those tests, doctors will advise a suitable plan of action. In some cases, they might just advise bed rest and in other cases, they can even change the method for delivery.

Another set of people who can get this disease are the ones who have been through a heart surgery. The chances of bacteria getting into their bloodstream are higher. This condition is known as Bacterial Endocarditis. It is an infection which is caused when the bacteria enter in the blood. The solution for this condition is the use of antibiotics and depending upon the individual, the doctors can advise the dosage of those antibiotics.

Emotional stress also plays a big role in the life of people who have this syndrome. Although avoiding stress will not help in avoiding this disease altogether, but it surely helps in reducing the impact of this syndrome. Those people who go for regular counselling and make some positive changes in their lifestyle can reduce the impact of this disease and increase their life expectancy. There are foundations and groups in many countries in the world where people can get support and more help related to this syndrome.

Another way of reducing the impact of Marfan syndrome is to avoid heavy physical activities. Not all the affected people need to do this, but some of them sure do. Those people who have a dilated aorta will need to avoid heavy exercises, sports and even heavy weight-lifting. The doctors can guide on what all is allowed, where the precautions need to be taken and what all should completely be avoided.


There is no treatment that can completely cure this disease, but there are treatments which can reduce or even avoid some of the complications caused by this disease. The treatment varies from one individual to the other, depending upon their case and medical data. But for all patients, getting regular check-ups for the progress as well as the damage caused is important. In the past when the technology was not so strong, the life expectancy of people with this syndrome was near about 35. But now things have improved due to the modern treatments. Regular monitoring of the body is of utmost importance when it comes to Marfan syndrome.

The treatment plan could be a combination of medicines, surgery and therapies. The medicines are used to bring the blood pressure down in cases where it is high. This helps in preventing the rupturing of the aorta by avoiding its enlargement due to high blood pressure. There are certain drugs like beta-blockers and they help in making the heart beat a bit slower and with less force. Because of less force, the chances of aorta enlargement are reduced.

Surgery performed on patients with Marfan Syndrome is with the motive of preventing the aortic dissection. This ultimately helps in controlling the flow of the blood between the chambers of the heart and ‘to and from’ the heart. Not every patient is expected to go through the surgery. The decision of surgery is impacted by the size of the aorta and a comparison of normal and expected size. Other factors which impacts this are the age, gender, height and family history of the patient. In the surgery, the surgeons will replace the dilated part of the aorta and put a graft in its place. A graft is a small piece which is used to make up for the damaged area of the blood vessel. They are also used for the weaker areas of the vessel to avoid further damage.

It is important to treat the leaky or dilated aorta because it can further damage the left ventricle of the heart and can even cause heart failure. The left ventricle is the lower chamber and is the main component responsible for pumping the blood. This is one of the reasons why regular check-ups are important. If the damage is detected early, then the surgery can help to save the valves. If the valves are damaged, they will need to be replaced where things can get more complicated.

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