A cough can be described as a rapid expulsion of air from the lungs to clear the throat and airways of mucus, foreign particles, fluids, microbes, and various irritants. In a 2013 review, it was found that the average cough lasts around 18 days. Any cough that lasts for more than eight weeks can be regarded as chronic and it is therefore advised that you seek medical help. Yet despite the advice, many people let a persistent cough go untreated for too long. Here are seven signs that indicate your cough is symptomatic of something more serious.
A cough can affect your health in unexpected ways. It may indicate illnesses like tuberculosis (TB) and some cancers. In addition, a chronic cough can also cause social embarrassment, interfere with sleep patterns, and cause headaches and urinary incontinence. But it doesn't just stop there! Violent, persistent coughing can actually cause 'structural' damage to your body. Let's take a look at 7 such situations:
1. Muscular pain
Persistent coughing can lead to chronic muscular pain. So every time you have a coffee fit, strong pressure is generated which can strain muscles, causing pain.
2. Cracked ribs
Rib fractures which are caused by chronic coughing generally occur in women. The middle ribs along the side are mostly affected. One of the risk factors is lower bone density. But a cough-induced rib fracture is possible and can happen in people with normal bone density.
3. Damage to small blood vessels
A violent coughing fit may cause fine blood vessels, such as in the anus and nose, to burst, which can lead to a hemorrhage.
4. Rupture of the diaphragm
During the expiratory phase of a cough, the diaphragm contracts. During forced respiratory movements, the diaphragm is pushed upward while the ribs are pushed inward and downward. Consequently, this opposing action can at times result in diaphragmatic rupture.
5. Abdominal hernia
While damage to the abdominal wall after coughing is rare, it may require surgical intervention. Abdominal herniation and abdominal muscle tears have been reported. However, abdominal muscle tears are difficult to detect and mostly occur in patients who suffer from chronic bronchitis. Yet, abdominal hernias which are generally caused by a cough are easier to detect.
6. Tissue damage in the throat
Persistent coughing can cause throat infections. This can lead to an infection risk to other parts of the body. Inflammation in the tissues of the throat may also be caused by a chronic cough.
7. Coughing up blood
Known as hemoptysis, coughing up small amounts of bright red blood or frothy blood-streaked saliva and phlegm indicates that blood from your lungs is due to a prolonged coughing or a chest infection.