Coughing is a reflex and how your body attempts to clear an irritant from your airway. Common irritants that cause coughing include dust and allergens, mucous, fluid, food improperly swallowed, and reflux. Coughing occasionally is normal and a way for your body to protect itself (similar to sneezing). However, persistent cough should be evaluated by a healthcare professional for other causes.
Cough is generally categorized into three types: acute (lasting up to 3 weeks), sub-acute (lasting between 3-8 weeks) and chronic (lasting longer than 8 weeks). Your healthcare provider will also ask if your cough is productive (produces mucous or phlegm), dry or only happens at night.
Should you have a sudden cough with difficulty breathing, swollen face/neck, chest pain or cough up blood, seek immediate assistance.
Treatment of cough is generally dependent on what is causing your cough. Testing to determine the cause may include a chest x-ray or CAT scan of your chest, blood tests to look for infection, testing of phlegm if your cough is productive, breathing test to determine lung function or bronchoscopy (a camera that looks into your lungs) in some cases. Once the source of the cough is determined, treatment can range from medication to avoidance of triggers causing your cough.