What is a cough?

Coughing is a bodily mechanism that protects our airways from allergens, smoke, chemicals and foreign objects. It’s also how our bodies get rid of mucus from allergies, colds and infections. Coughs may be agitated by changes in temperature and humidity, but most coughs are temporary and go away on their own.

Keep in mind that coughs are symptoms, rather than diseases, so it’s important to figure out what’s causing the cough rather than trying to diagnose the cough itself.

Types of coughs and possible causes

Coughs can be acute (lasting less than three weeks), subacute (lasting three to eight weeks), or chronic (lasting more than eight weeks). Acute coughs are generally caused by:

  • Colds and flu
  • Inhaling something irritating
  • Pneumonia

Subacute coughs may linger awhile after you’ve had cold or infection. Chronic coughs may develop and are potentially linked to:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis (respiratory infection)
  • GERD
  • Post-nasal drip

In rare instances, a chronic cough may signify a more serious health condition such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or tuberculosis.

If you are wheezing or have difficulty catching your breath, or if you are regularly coughing up blood, you should get medical attention as soon as possible.

Coping with coughing

If you have a cough that lingers and causes you concern, diagnostic testing and good communication with your doctor will help determine the source of your cough.


Urgent Care

Urgent care near me for patients of all ages for a wide range of health conditions and non-life-threatening health issues. Virtual urgent care is also available for a variety of common illnesses and injuries.

Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

The board-certified experts at Main Line Health can help develop treatments to control and manage your allergy and asthma symptoms.