Coughing, while annoying, can be a positive reaction of the body that serves to clear the throat and airways. An acute cough usually is associated with a cold or the flu and typically lasts no longer than two or three weeks. A chronic, persistent cough can be the signal of a more serious medical complication. While the illness needs to be checked, the cough should be treated, because there are other complications that can arise from a chronic cough.
Bordetella pertussis is a bacterium that lives in human throats and causes coughing. In adults, the cough is manageable and usually passes within a few days. When children contract the bacteria however, it can lead to whooping cough, which can cause them to stop breathing. The term gets its name from the "whooping" sound the child makes when trying to catch his breath after a bout of coughing. Babies under six months who develop whooping cough often lose oxygen and must be put on a respirator, which often leads to additional problems, because the cough can be so forceful that it pushes the breathing tube out of the baby's mouth. Children should get vaccinated against the bacteria to avoid this cough.
Constant coughing can interrupt your lifestyle in a number of ways. Chronic coughing depletes your energy. The physical action of harshly expelling air is physically exhausting. Chronic coughing interrupts sleep, leaving you tired all day. In addition to energy depletion, other side effects of chronic coughing include headaches and excessive sweating. Coughing causes dizziness from the shortness of breath and urinary incontinence because of the continuous pressure on the bladder. Continuous coughing also can be embarrassing and make talking difficult. Other people can be irritated by the sound of a chronic cough, which may lead to isolation and self-consciousness.
Physical Side Effects
Coughing too hard can crack the ribs, especially in women with weak bones. The strength and power of a cough can strain muscles in the side, chest and diaphragm. Nasal veins can erupt and burst. Veins in the anus and other areas also can rupture. Recent surgical wounds can open as a result of hard coughing. A chronic cough often is a signal of a more serious disease, such as tuberculosis, bronchitis or cancer. When a cough is associated with a viral infection, coughing becomes infectious, putting others in danger of catching the disease.
- Thorax: Recommendations for the Management of Cough in Adults
- World Journal of Emergency Surgery: Cough Induced Rib Fracture, Rupture of the Diaphragm and Abdominal Herniation
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Pertussis
- Canadian Family Physician: Cough in the Palliative Care Setting
- Cough: Cough Management -- A Practical Approach