Cough is a vital reflex of the body and serves to protect the respiratory tract. If foreign bodies penetrate the airways, for example when swallowed, so-called cough receptors are irritated. These send a warning signal to the cough center and a cough can be started. It can be done in a matter of seconds. In this way, any intruder is thrown out violently but efficiently.
In addition to coughing, there are other mechanisms available to the lungs to keep themselves clean or sterile. In this way, thorough cleaning is achieved through the continuous formation of certain secretions. These are transported towards the throat by a circular movement of cilia, which sit in the bronchi, and then swallowed unnoticed.
With a cold, viruses enter the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. The immune system is alarmed and inflammation results.
The irritated mucous membranes are now particularly sensitive. One breath alone can be enough to trigger a cough. This cough has no cleaning function and is therefore also called dry or irritable cough. With every coughing thrust, the already attacked mucous membrane is further irritated, so real coughing attacks can occur arise.
Inflammatory mucus is increasingly formed as part of the inflammation, which hinders the natural cleaning mechanisms of the respiratory tract. To the bronchi of it to free, a so-called productive cough is triggered. It has a cleaning function because it is accompanied by expectoration.
A distinction is therefore made between two types of cough: dry, dry cough and productive cough, which is also called mucous cough.
A typical cold cough occurs in three phases, which must be treated differently:
If cold viruses get stuck in the airways, this leads to inflammation of the mucous membranes. Inflammatory messengers irritate cough receptors, with the result that first one cough is triggered. This cough is dry, which means that no tough mucus is (yet) formed. Irritable cough is therefore not expectorated and therefore has no function.
After two to three days, the dry, irritable cough turns into one productive (mucous) cough about. In the course of the inflammation, a thick mucus has formed and accumulated in the airways, which must now be coughed up. The cough takes over now the Cleaning function, since the other cleaning mechanisms have come to a standstill due to the inflammation. The productive cough is usually over after seven days.
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