What are coughing spasms?

A coughing spasm is continuous coughing for longer than about five minutes. A cough is your body’s defensive reflex that functions to keep your airways clear of irritating or obstructing substances so that you can breathe effectively. Coughing spasms can make it difficult to breathe or talk during the coughing spell. Severe spells can even cause vomiting, choking, retching, light-headedness, muscle soreness, or turning blue due to the force of the coughing spell.

A cough is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. A cough can result from infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, airway obstruction, or other abnormal processes.

You may cough after inhaling an irritant, such as dust, smoke or pollen. A cough may also be the result of a disorder or disease, such as influenza, upper respiratory infection, or allergies. A cough can accompany serious and potentially life-threatening conditions as well, including pneumonia, acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, asthma, malignancy, or congestive heart failure. Coughing spasms can commonly occur with pertussis (whooping cough), asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or allergic cough. Although coughing spells can happen anytime, common triggers may include eating, drinking, yawning, sneezing, or breathing in cold air.

Coughing spasms can be a sign of a serious or life-threatening disorder. Seek prompt medical care if your cough is undiagnosed, persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern.

Seek immediate medical care (911) if you, your child, or someone you are with, have difficulty breathing or speaking; experience chest pain, rapid heartbeat, grunting noises with each breath, loss of consciousness or passing out, or bluish lips; or are coughing up pink, frothy mucus. The latter is a sign of pulmonary edema and can lead to respiratory arrest. Any sign of blood is a potentially serious problem.


What other symptoms might occur with coughing spasms?

Coughing spasms often occur in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Some symptoms, such as abnormal sounds the lungs make while you are breathing, changes in blood pressure, and low blood oxygen levels may only be evident using certain instruments in the clinical... Read more about coughing spasmssymptoms


What causes coughing spasms?

A cough has many causes, the most common of which is an upper airway infection, such as a common cold. Coughing spasms can be due to whooping cough (pertussis) or a chronic lung condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. Whooping cough is uncommon in infants due to vaccination, but it is surprisingly common in adults because the vaccination becomes less effective... Read more about coughing spasmscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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