The 7 types of cough (and how to recognize them)

Coughing is a very common thoughtful action, so much so that we don’t even know how many times we cough during the day. Whether it’s to clear our throats or because we have a bit of mucus in our throats, we humans cough.

The main function of this action is to eliminate any foreign body that is in our airways, although it is true that sometimes we cough when there is nothing to expel from our throat.

Dry, wet, paroxysmal… They are diverse the types of cough we can suffer from and throughout this article we will delve into them and what their possible causes are. Do not miss them !

    The 7 types of cough

    Cough is a normal reaction of the body and in healthy people it is a mechanism used to keep the trachea and bronchi clean.

    The cough reflex is usually caused by the presence of mucus or a foreign body in the airways. Cough can also be a symptom associated with diseases of the respiratory system such as asthma, bronchitis or a cold.

    Giving a clinical definition, cough can be defined as a sudden, explosive breathing maneuver that occurs to remove a foreign body or troublesome material from the airways. Cough consists of three phases:

    • Opening of the glottis with inspiration.
    • Closure of the glottis with contraction of the respiratory muscles.
    • Sudden opening of the glottis with expulsion of the air retained in the lungs.

    The cough reflex involves the following process. First, a stimulus, usually a physical or chemical irritant, is picked up by receptors located in the airways. These sensory cells send an impulse to the central nervous system, traveling up the vagus nerve to the medulla oblongata and reaching the bulge. Of the, a response is sent in the form of another impulse that goes to the diaphragm and the intercostal and abdominal muscles, causing it to contract sharply.

    Cough is an involuntary reflex of the body whose function is to clear the airways. When inhaling particles of dust, smoke or breadcrumbs (cough stimuli), the sensors in the mucous membranes of the trachea and bronchi become irritated and cause a cough reflex. In the event that the cough is bothersome and repeats several times during the day, you should consult a doctor know if it is a symptom of a serious illness.

      How many types of cough are there?

      Now that we know what cough is and what its main function is, let’s take a closer look at what we found in this article: types of cough. There are different types of such human movement and yet in most cases, not a symptom or cause for concern, although it can sometimes be a sign of concern or need treatment.

      Coughing is especially common in the winter, as this is the time of year when there are more colds and respiratory infections. The main reason for this is not the cold, but also the fact that people stay longer at home and in the company of other people, being more prone to illnesses and breathing in more dust particles when they are in a Closed space. Because there are more foreign bodies in our airways during the winter months, the more we cough.

      The main types of cough are the following seven.

      1. Dry or unproductive cough

      Dry or unproductive cough it is the one in which there is no mucus. There is a tingling sensation in the back of the throat which causes a cough reflex and also a tingling sensation.

      Although the main function of the cough is to expectorate mucus, in this case there is no excess mucus to expel, which is why it is called a dry cough. This is very embarrassing as it can cause a constant itchy feeling in the throat.

      This type of cough is usually caused by inflammation or irritation of the airways, caused by upper respiratory infections such as a cold or the flu. In both children and adults it is common for the unproductive cough to last for several weeks after overcoming a cold or flu. Other possible causes of a dry cough are:

      • Laryngitis
      • Tonsillitis
      • Sinusitis
      • Asthma
      • Allergies and asthma
      • Croup
      • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
      • Certain medications (eg, ACE inhibitors)
      • Exposure to irritants: dust, smoke, air pollution, etc.
      • COVID-19: Dry cough is one of the common symptoms of this disease

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        2. Wet or productive cough

        As the name suggests, a wet or productive cough produces mucus. This type of cough can be caused by a cold or the flu and seems to expel excess mucus from the respiratory system, especially the throat, nose, lungs and other parts of the airways. When you have a productive cough, you may feel a tingling sensation or discharge in the back of your throat or chest.

        This type of cough is the easiest to identify, and tends to go away once phlegm is cleared. It can come on slowly or quickly and is often accompanied by other symptoms such as runny nose, postnasal drip, and fatigue. The duration of the cough can be a clue as to the condition causing it:

        • cold or flu
        • Pneumonia
        • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
        • Emphysema
        • Bronchitis, acute and chronic
        • Asthma

        Wet cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks in babies, toddlers, and slightly older children is almost always caused by a cold or the flu. In most cases, productive cough is treated with expectorants or mucolytics to facilitate their expulsion. and in each of them it is generally recommended to drink plenty of fluids, which facilitates expectoration.

        3. Paroxysmal cough

        Paroxysmal cough causes intermittent bouts of violent, uncontrollable coughing. It can be very exhausting and cause pain, making it hard for those who suffer from it to breathe. In the midst of a paroxysmal cough, the person may vomit.

        One of the main causes of this type of cough is whooping cough, also known as whooping cough. This is a bacterial infection that causes violent fits of coughing, forcing the lungs to release all the air they have. Then it is inhaled violently and a scream-like sound is emitted.

        Babies are the population group most at risk of whooping cough and can have very serious complications, putting his life in danger. To prevent this condition, it is advisable to vaccinate against whooping cough for babies two months and older. In the case of a highly contagious disease, any family member or anyone who has been in contact with a person with whooping cough should receive treatment.

        Although whooping cough usually causes a paroxysmal cough, there are other possible causes behind these violent coughing episodes:

        • Asthma
        • EPOC
        • Pneumonia
        • Tuberculosis
        • Asphyxia

        4. Croup cough

        Croup is a viral infection that affects children 5 years of age or younger. This medical condition causes irritation and inflammation of the upper airways, making them narrower. Because the airways of children under 5 are very narrow, croup makes it very difficult for them to breathe.

        The characteristic rump cough has a sound similar to that of seals, also described as a female dog cough. Swelling in and around the larynx also causes hoarseness and grinding when breathing.

        Croup cough can be extremely disturbing to children and parents given the accompanying symptoms.

        • breathing very difficult
        • High-pitched inhalation noises
        • Rapid and anxious breathing
        • In severe cases, children become pale or bluish

        5. Psychogenic cough (tics)

        Psychogenic or psychosomatic cough is a type of cough whose cause is not pathogenic, such as a virus or a particle in the throat, but voluntarily caused by the individual. It is this habit of coughing before speaking that some people have or when they are very nervous.

        Although it can be used to clear your throat before speaking, it can also be considered a type of tic used to break the ice before starting a conversation or a speech.

          6. Acute cough and chronic cough

          On the key, at the edge of the key it is a dry, wet, paroxysmal cough or any other type, depending on its duration we can speak of acute cough and chronic cough. If it lasts less than 3 weeks it is said to be an acute cough, while if it lasts more than 4 weeks in children and 8 in adults, it could be a case of chronic cough.

          7. False dry cough

          In the false dry cough you cannot spit it up and you inadvertently swallow mucus. This type of cough occurs mainly in children and women.

          How is a cough treated?

          When you cough too much, it is always advisable to consult a doctor with our trusted professional. Although coughing is normal and we do it all day without realizing it, the truth is that it can be caused by viral infections and other pathogens that require treatment. Whatever the cause, general guidelines for coughing are as follows.

          For dry or unproductive cough

          For dry cough, treatment with antitussive drugs, which can be of two types.

          • Central action: they inhibit the cough reflex by depressing the center. The most commonly used are codeine and dextromethorphan.
          • Peripheral action: they act on the efferent branch of the cough reflex.

          For wet or productive cough

          In case of productive cough, expectorants and/or mucolytics are used. Mucolytic drugs decrease the viscosity of bronchial secretion, which facilitates the expulsion of sputum. In the case of expectorants, they stimulate the mechanism of elimination, with the ciliary movement which pushes the secretion towards the pharynx to be eliminated by expectoration or swallowing.

          The medicine your doctor prescribes will depend on factors such as the patient’s age, type of cough, associated symptoms, or whether you are taking other medicines for a respiratory condition. History of diseases like diabetes, bronchitis, heart disease will also be considered.

          Bibliographic references

          • Lamasa, Adelaide; Ruiz de Valbuena, Marta; Maiz, Luis (July 2014). “Your child.” Arch Bronconeumol 2014; 50: – Vol. 50 No.7 DOI: (Madrid, Spain: SEPAR) 50 (7): 294-300.
          • Chung KF, Pavord ID (April 2008). “Prevalence, pathogenesis and causes of chronic cough”. Lancet. 371 (9621): 1364–1374.
          • Goldsobel AB, Chipps BE (March 2010). “Cough in the Pediatric Population.” J. Pediatr. 156 (3): 352–358.e1.
          • Gibson PG, Ryan NM (August 2011). “Pharmacotherapy for cough: current and future status”. Expert opinion on drug therapy. 12 (11): 1745–1755.

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