Cough is the most common symptom of a lung disease. Among all the other symptoms of lung disease such as cough, shortness of breath, wheezing (whistling sound during breathing), coughing out blood, phlegm, and chest tightness, it is the cough that occurs most frequently.
There are several diseases that can cause coughing. These causes can originate in the nose, throat, sinuses, wind pipes (airways), lungs, or food pipe (oesophagus). How can you then identify the cause of cough in your particular case? There is a way.
First you need to ask yourself—how long have you been coughing?
If you have been coughing for less than 3 weeks, the cause of your cough is usually in your nose or throat. The conditions that cause such a cough are recent flu, sore throat, or lung infection (pneumonia). The treatment for such a cough is the treatment of the underlying flu or infection.
You can also take cough mixture for temporary suppression of cough while the flu or other infection is getting better. Another question that you can ask yourself is— did you start out with a flu-like illness. This means that you have the flu, that is viral illness with fever and runny nose before the cough started. If yes, you are likely having a post infectious cough.
If you have been coughing for 3-8 weeks, the cause of your cough is usually a throat infection. One of the germ (bacteria) causing such infection is Bordetella Pertusis. The cough caused by this germ is also called “whooping cough.”
You can be tested for this infection by rubbing a soft swab stick at the back of your throat and sending the specimen collected on the swab stick for culture—which means giving a favourable environment to the bacteria (Bordetella Pertusis) on the swab stick to see if it grows.
If the bacteria start growing, it means the bacteria were present in your throat and the test is considered positive. The treatment is an antibiotic belonging to the class of antibiotics that the doctors call Macrolides.
If your cough has lasted more than 8 weeks, then the causes can be in the nose, wind pipes, lungs, or food pipe. Such a cough is called “Chronic cough.” The most common causes of chronic cough are allergic rhinitis, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), non-asthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis, medicine to control high blood pressure, and lung damage from chronic smoking—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Some rare causes are Tuberculosis (TB), non-tuberculosis mycobacterium infection, bronchiectasis, and lung cancer. If you are not taking any high blood pressure medication, then the top 3 causes of chronic cough are allergic rhinitis, asthma, and GERD, and you need to focus on these first, all 3 of which can be self-diagnosed to a certain extent.