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A cough is a forceful expiration following a preliminary inspiration. During it, the glottis is partially closed, the muscles of expiration go into action and air is noisily expelled. There is no set therapy for coughing, as it may be caused by many different conditions, so it is important to find the genesis of the cough and treat the underlying disease. Coughs should not be stifled as this could lead to the inflammation of the respiratory tract especially in the case of sputum production (expectoration).
Some of the more common types of coughs, provided in Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, include:
- aneurysmal cough, a clanging cough sometimes heard in patients with aortic aneurysms
- brassy cough, heard in patients who have pressure on the left recurrent laryngeal valve
- bronchial cough, heard in patients with bronchitis and featuring frothy mucus, grey colouration and a fetid odour
- chronic cough, which lasts every day for at least three weeks
- diphtherial cough, a loud cough with difficult breathing found in patients with diptheria
- dry cough, a cough without sputum production
- ear cough, a reflex cough caused by ear irritation
- hacking cough, a series of very forceful coughs found in respiratory infections
- harsh cough, a metallic cough found in patients with laryngitis
- moist cough, a cough with mucus production
- paroxysmal cough, which is persistent with acute onset
- productive cough, during which exudate or mucus is expectorated
- pulmonary cough, a deep cough seen in pneumonia
- reflex cough, which is caused by irritation of the middle ear, pharynx, stomach or intestine
- trigeminal cough, a reflex cough caused by irritation of the upper passages of the respiratory system
- whooping cough, also known as pertussis, a paroxysmal cough ending in a whooping inspiration
There are several pharmaceutical preparations (antitussives) of varying effectiveness depending on the cause of the cough. However, recent research has shown that most over-the-counter preparations have little or no effect on children under the age of six.