Coughing is the body’s reaction to irritation in the airways or foreign material in the lungs and airways. Most coughs will resolve themselves on their own and are a normal part of life, but if you have a cough that lasts longer than a day or two it can mean a number of different things, ranging from minor issues to a symptom of a serious disease.
There are two types of coughs, productive and nonproductive. A productive cough produces mucus, whereas a nonproductive cough is dry and doesn’t produce any mucus.
Possible causes of a productive cough include:
- The common cold
- Infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis
- Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Postnasal drip
- Smoking or other tobacco use
Possible causes of a nonproductive cough include:
- Exposure to a lung irritant like dust or smoke
- Viral illness
- Certain types of medicines
- Airway blockage
If you have a cough that doesn’t go away after a few weeks, see your doctor to determine the cause of your cough. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, high fever or coughing up blood, seek immediate medical attention.