Coughs Explained

Coughs Explained - How a bad cough can begin

Mucus cough

When mucus builds up in the chest, it can be hard to get rid of by coughing, so it’s helpful to have something that helps to loosen the mucus and relieve the feeling of tightness on your chest. A mucus cough can also be referred to as a chesty cough.


Chesty cough

Chesty coughs are caused by a build-up of phlegm or mucus in the lungs. The cough mechanism kicks in to try and get rid of it. A chesty cough can also be referred to as a mucus cough.


Dry cough

Dry coughs are caused by an inflammation of the upper airways caused by dust, foreign bodies or a throat infection. There is no mucus or phlegm produced.


Tickly cough

The irritated area in the throat produces a tickly sensation causing you to cough, even though there’s no mucus to cough up.

Some coughs are dry, while others are considered productive because they bring up mucus. Mucus is produced by the body and has protective, lubricating and disease preventing properties. When you get a cold your body produces excess mucus that you can then struggle to get rid of.

To fight an infection the body produces extra mucus – the mucus becomes thicker and coloured because it contains debris from white cells in the body that are fighting infection. Catarrh and phlegm are terms often used to describe this thicker mucus.


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Broadly speaking, coughs are either productive (producing excess mucus or phlegm) or unproductive (producing no mucus or phlegm).

Chesty coughs and mucus coughs are productive, whereas dry and tickly coughs are unproductive.

Did you know?

  • When you cough, your voice box (or larynx) briefly closes.
  • When you cough you can produce a blast of air that is stronger than a hurricane!
Tips & Advice on Medicine Remedies for coughs

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