Coughing, while annoying, can be a positive reaction of the body that serves to clear the throat and airways. According to the National Institutes of Health, an acute cough usually is associated with a cold or the flu and typically lasts no longer than two or three weeks. A chronic, persistent cough can be the signal of a more serious medical complication. While the illness needs to be checked, the cough should be treated, because there are other complications that can arise from a chronic cough.
Bordetella pertussis is a bacterium that lives in human throats and causes coughing. In adults, the cough is manageable and usually passes within a few days. When children contract the bacteria however, it can lead to whooping cough, which can cause them to stop breathing. The term gets its name from the “whooping” sound the child makes when trying to catch his breath after a bout of coughing. Babies under six months who develop whooping cough often lose oxygen and must be put on a respirator, which often leads to additional problems, because the cough can be so forceful that it pushes the breathing tube out of the baby’s mouth. Children should get vaccinated against the bacteria to avoid this cough.
Constant coughing can interrupt your lifestyle in a number of ways. Chronic coughing depletes your energy, according to the Mayo Clinic. The physical action of harshly expelling air is physically exhausting. Chronic coughing interrupts sleep, leaving you tired all day. In addition to energy depletion, other side effects of chronic coughing include headaches and excessive sweating. Coughing causes dizziness from the shortness of breath and urinary incontinence because of the continuous pressure on the bladder. Continuous coughing also can be embarrassing and make talking difficult. Other people can be irritated by the sound of a chronic cough, which may lead to isolation and self-consciousness.
Physical Side Effects
Coughing too hard can crack the ribs, especially in women with weak bones, reports the Mayo Clinic. The strength and power of a cough can strain muscles in the side, chest and diaphragm. Nasal veins can erupt and burst. Veins in the anus and other areas also can rupture, report doctors at Health Communities. Recent surgical wounds can open as a result of hard coughing. A chronic cough often is a signal of a more serious disease, such as tuberculosis, bronchitis or cancer. When a cough is associated with a viral infection, coughing becomes infectious, putting others in danger of catching the disease.
About this Author
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist who\’s spent more than 20 years doing in-depth research and reporting on trends in health care and fitness for newspapers and magazines, including the “Greenville News,” “Success,” “Verve,” and “American City Business Journals.” In addition to sports and alternative therapies, Ray has extensive experience covering banking, commercial development and people. Ray has a bachelor\’s degree in journalism.