Home / Health Problems / Coughing, hiccups, and hoarseness

Coughing, hiccups, and hoarseness

Coughing is due to irritation of the airways - due to bronchitis, the common cold, or smoking. It causes rapid exhalation. Hiccups are due to an involuntary contraction of muscles is the diaphragm and hoarseness often is due to overexertion.

is a perfectly natural reaction to various irritants in the airways and therefore it is not a disease in itself; it is more a symptom of a problem located somewhere in our airways.

Coughing is a kind of airway preventive reflex to avoid making our lung capacity reduced on account of pollution which in the long run would result in cell anaemia. A sustained cough is often a sign that the immune system works at protecting us from disease.

Located in the trachea, bronchi, pleura, and the mucosa of the large bronchi are nerve receptors that are very sensitive to irritation. If they come into contact with some kind of particle, a reflex is triggered causing the well-known, violent, jerky expirations from the lungs supposed to remove phlegm and other irritants.

Coughing can be done voluntarily when purposely coughing to dissolve phlegm and other things irritating the airways. It is more difficult to suppress coughing. Most people know the feeling of being in an audience at some kind of cultural performance with a cough that only gets worse if trying to suppress it.

The cough itself consists of a deep inspiration, the glottis closes, and the air in the lungs and airways is set under pressure as the diaphragma contracts - then the glottis opens, and the air is violently emitted (expiration). Simultaneously, the muscles contract causing the airways to constrict. This creates the violent emission of air pressing phlegm and foreign bodies up into the pharynx where it can be spat out through the mouth.

Coughing is often caused by a mucosal irritation in the airways, possibly because of an inflammation caused by microorganisms - also called catarrh. There might be an inflammation with a lot of mucus where the coughing serves to remove the mucus from the airways - this is called a loose and humid cough. This cough serves a purpose just like the cough that removes irritants from the airways.

The dry cough that is not accompanied by phlegm, however, does not have any purpose and can actually cause damage in the long run by maintainig the irritative condition in the mucosa.

There have been examples where otherwise healthy women non-smokers with chronic cough coupled with slight throat inflammation have experienced relief from their symptoms by taking iron supplements for a few months.

Coughing can also be a symptom of a more serious disease, e.g. a functional disturbance in the thyroid gland - causing croup - or tuberculosis. Moreover, tumours and swollen lymph nodes also can put pressure on sensitive areas in the airways. Therefore, if you have bloody sputum or experience an extreme fatigue you should be examined by a doctor. If you suffer from croup for a long period of time (weeks) you should be examined for possible thyroid gland disturbances.
If your throat, airways, pharynx, or larynx is attacked by bacteria or vira, the coughing reflex will set in. Bronchitis arise if bacteria and vira attack the upper respiratory passages and causes mucus to be created by the bronchial mucosa. This often leads to a painful cough. Some people experience a transcient cough when eating cold things like ice cream or very cold drinks.

Different types of coughing presents different courses:

  • Bronchitis can arise on account of an inflammation in the bronchial mucosa often leading to coughing - mostly in the morning after the mucus having accumulated during the night, dyspnoea, and sometimes fever.
  • A cough accompanied by phlegm often causes a whitish, yellowish, or greenish phlegm from the chest.
  • A cough without phlegm is dry and irritating and can last for a long time.
  • Smokers' cough - an irritating tobacco cough that occur in many heavy smokers - can be both dry and with phlegm. After 20 - 25 years of smoking the damage to the lungs can become irreversible (chronic lung disease) and recurrent symptoms are the tormenting result (see "Smoking").

Also see the "classical" children's disease "Whooping cough".

Hiccups are a sudden, involuntary contraction of muscles of the diaphragm. The characteristic sound is caused by the breathing and use of the vocal chords being disrupted for a second.

Hiccups are usually not harmful and are quickly over with. The real cause for the hickup reflex is unknown, but foetuses can have the hiccups as early as at the age of two months, and therefore some researchers believe that by having the hiccups they train their sucking function. The researchers also believe that hiccups are an ancient relic from when we were toads and fish supplementing the breathing function with something resembling hiccups.
By experience we know that if we consume food or drink too fast, it might trigger transient hiccups. Some nervous- and inflammatory conditions in the abdomen can also cause hiccups.

If the concentration of carbondioxide increases in the air that we breathe, the hiccup reflex is inhibited.

Acute hoarseness is most often due to overexertion of the voice or a sore throat caused by a virus or bacteria. Actors, presenters, politicians, and other people who often use their voices are especially likely to suffer from recurrent hoarseness.

Hoarseness which last longer than three weeks can be due to smoking, some forms of medication, stress, or reflux (which is when stomach acid comes up the throat because the sphincter between the stomach and oesophagus is weak). In acid reflux, stomach acid affects the vocal chords and leads to hoarseness. Other symptoms due to stomach acid can include a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn).

Shop Products

Looking for a Shop-Product, You can search for it here: