What are the types and symptoms of Cough

Cough Treatmemt London

There are a number of different types of coughs; you may have heard people refer to ‘productive’ and ‘non productive’ coughs, whooping cough or croup.


  • Postnasal drip is caused by mucous draining down the throat, stimulating coughing to keep the mucous from travelling down into the lungs. If mucous gets into the lungs it can cause pneumonia, a more serious respiratory illness.
  • A productive cough can be acute (short term onset) or chronic (last for a longer period)
  • Conditions that can cause a wet cough include: the flu, pneumonia, COPD (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis), acute bronchitis and asthma
  • Bronchiectasis is a disease where mucous pools in small balloon-like pouches and can't be fully cleared from the lungs


  • This type of cough does not bring up mucous. It is often difficult to control and present in long fits
  • It normally occurs because there is inflammation or irritation in your respiratory tract, often cause by upper respiratory tract infections
  • Other possible causes include: laryngitis, croup, tonsillitis, sinusitis, asthma, allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease, ACE inhibitors (drugs such as enalapril and lisinopril which cause a persistent cough in 20% of people who use them), exposure to irritants


  • Cough with intermittent attacks of violent, uncontrollable coughing
  • A paroxysmal cough can feel exhausting and painful and some people may vomit during or after an episode
  • Pertussis (caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria) also known as whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that causes violent coughing fits. During whooping cough attacks, the lungs release all of the oxygen they have, causing people to violently inhale with a 'whoop' sound
  • Babies have a higher risk of contracting whooping cough and face more serious complications from it. For those 2 months or older, the best way to avoid contracting pertussis has been found to be vaccination
  • Paroxysmal coughs are often caused by whooping cough, but can also be caused by: asthma, COPD, pneumonia, tuberculosis and choking


  • Croup is a viral infection which typically affects children age 5 and younger. It causes the airway to become irritated and swollen. Young children already have narrower airways, so when swelling further narrows the airway it can become very difficult to breathe
  • Croup causes a characteristic "barking" cough. Swelling in and around the voice box causes a raspy voice and squeaky breathing noises
  • Children may struggle for breath, make high-pitched noises during inhalation, or breathe very rapidly

Diagnosing Cough

As outlined above, there are a variety of different coughs someone could experience and there may be a more serious underlying cause for this symptom.

When trying to find out the underlying pathology or reason for your cough, your doctor may ask a series of questions along the lines of:

  • When you cough, does anything ‘come up’ such as mucus or blood?
  • If mucus comes up, what colour is the mucus e.g. clear, yellow, green, brown?
  • What is the consistency of the mucus?
  • How long has your cough lasted for? Did anything in particular bring it on?
  • Do you have any known allergies which could have brought the cough on?
  • What is your past medical history, have you previously had any chest infections or fallen ill with pneumonia?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes or take any drugs?
  • What medications are you on?

Your answers to these questions will help your doctor to understand what may be going on and choosing the appropriate treatment plan.

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