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Cough is a symptom of various infectious and noninfectious disorders. It's classified as either acute or chronic. If it has a duration of 3 weeks or less it's classified as acute. If it lasts longer than 3 weeks it’s classified as chronic. Viral infections of the upper respiratory tract and, less commonly, pulmonary emboli and pneumonia cause the acute kind. The chronic kind is often a symptom of postnasal drip syndrome that is secondary to sinusitis or rhinitis, asthma, bronchitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and congestive heart failure. It’s reported by 14 to 23 % of adults. Others who may have this chronic condition include people with emphysema, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, and dust diseases (farmer’s lung, silicosis, asbestosis, and pneumoconiosis). This chronic condition can be linked to smoking.

Penetrol for Coughs, UK, 1940
Penetrol for Coughs, UK, 1940

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A few drugs can cause this symptom. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors cause this symptom in 10% of patients. Systemic and ophthalmic beta-adrenergic blockers may cause this condition in patients with obstructive airway diseases.

It's an important defensive reflex of the respiratory tract. It starts with a deep inspiration followed by closure of the glottis and forceful contraction of the chest wall, abdominal wall, and diaphragmatic muscles against the closed glottis. When the glottis opens, high expiratory velocities force cellular debris, mucus, and foreign material from the lower respiratory system. The complex cough response is coordinated by the central cough control center, which is located in the medulla of the brain. It’s separate from the respiratory control center. Mellin's Emulsion Coughs, Colds and Flu Medicine, UK, 1890
Mellin's Emulsion Coughs, Colds and Flu Medicine, UK, 1890

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