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Coronavirus cough: how to distinguish a cold from pneumonia



What does a cough say, and is it possible to guess from it about a coronavirus? A pulmonologist talked about what you need to know about a typical symptom, writes

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What types of cough are there and what diseases do they signal? How should this symptom be treated and what mistakes should be avoided? All the dots on the “i” were placed by a pulmonologist of the highest category of the consulting department of the Minsk Clinical Consultative and Diagnostic Center and the Medical Center “36 and 6”.

A cough is a reflex that nature has given us to rid ourselves of unnecessary irritants in the airways. That is, it is a protective reaction of the body. At the same time, this is a common symptom that accompanies a large number of diseases.

This reflex is triggered when various irritants of a viral, bacterial, allergic nature enter the respiratory tract, and cold air, the smell of smoke, heartburn and other causative factors also act. With irritation of the receptors of the respiratory tract or pleura, the signal enters the medulla oblongata, where the cough center is located.

There a reaction arises - and there comes an intensified exhalation through the mouth, caused by contraction of the muscles of the respiratory tract.

The exhalation rate for coughing is 20-30 times higher than usual.

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What types of cough are there and what are they talking about?

  • According to the degree of sputum production, cough is productive and unproductive. An unproductive cough is dry when sputum is absent or excreted in small amounts. Often such a cough occurs during severe inflammation of the airways, when there is swelling of the mucosa, thickening of sputum, which adheres to the walls of the airways and causes additional irritation of the cough receptors. Such a cough is often exhausting, paroxysmal. A productive cough is also called wet, because with it a sufficient amount of sputum is secreted. The presence of sputum suggests that edema decreases in the airways and normal mucus levels are restored. In acute viral infections, the cough is often dry at first, during treatment it goes wet and then disappears.
  • The duration of cough is acute, lingering and chronic. An acute cough lasts up to three weeks and, as a rule, happens with infectious diseases. A protracted cough lasts up to 2-3 months, chronic - more than 3 months. There is also such a thing as recurrent cough: it occurs periodically and is a symptom of a chronic inflammatory process. Three cough episodes lasting more than 14 days in three months can be attributed to this option.
  • According to the time of occurrence, cough can be defined as day and night. Night can be associated with nasal congestion, with obstruction of the paranasal sinuses, which increases in a horizontal position. Such a cough can be with bronchial asthma. Daytime cough is often caused by allergies, exposure to various irritants, it happens with various viral infections.
  • By the nature of the cough, one can often talk about the localization of the inflammatory process and its cause. For example, a barking cough usually indicates inflammation in the glottis. He should be wary, especially when it comes to the child, because with this type of cough, swelling of the larynx and suffocation can quickly occur, which will require urgent medical attention. It can be associated with allergies, with an increase in temperature at night, it happens with infections of the upper respiratory tract. Paroxysmal cough in children is often found with whooping cough, in adults it can be a manifestation of allergic lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A wheezing cough is evidence of asthma, COPD. In children, it can appear with bronchiolitis, acute obstructive bronchitis. A cough with wheezing in the chest may indicate obstruction (obstruction) in the lower respiratory tract due to infection: bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma. A cough that appears after inhalation may indicate inflammation of the pleura.

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Does cough always talk about respiratory diseases?

No, not always. For example, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) may be the cause of the cough: the cough is often wet, and an acid taste may appear in the mouth. Other symptoms of GERD include belching, heartburn, and sometimes even vomiting. Such a cough more often bothers a person at night or in the morning.

Cough is also able to develop with cardiovascular diseases: heart failure, rheumatic heart disease, myocarditis. It seems to the person that it is the debilitating cough that worries him as the main symptom, but at the same time he misses the additional symptoms that he has: shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, swelling of the lower extremities.

Another common cause of cough is an endocrine system disease: a diffuse enlargement of the thyroid gland, when receptors in the trachea are irritated due to compression from the thyroid gland, and the person coughs. Such a cough will be more often dry, barking, slightly compressed.

Coughing is possible due to neuropsychiatric diseases, as well as diseases of the autonomic nervous system. In this case, we are talking about the excitation of the phrenic vagus nerve, about a change in the psychoemotional background and cough as a manifestation of such conditions.

The cough may also cause the use of certain medications, more often it is an ACE inhibitor used with high blood pressure; beta-blockers (metoprolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, etc.).

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In which case, when coughing, should I see a doctor?

Most often, with viral diseases of the upper respiratory tract, the cough passes by itself in 7-10 days.

You need to see a doctor if the cough lasts more than three weeks (lingering). With a short-term cough - if there are other additional symptoms: a high temperature that does not go away, despite the antipyretics, severe headache, severe weakness, rash.

It is worthwhile to beware if, over time, a repeated rise in temperature joins the cough: in the case when the symptoms of a cold are initially gone, but then returned.

The reason for the visit to the clinic should be the appearance of pain in the chest or throat, swelling of the throat, as well as a cough, accompanied by shortness of breath. There may be complaints of difficulty breathing during a cough, a change in the color of sputum (it acquires a brown, brown or green color, possibly with blood impurities). You should consult a doctor when, in addition to coughing, there is a weight loss not caused by changes in diet.

What is the cough of coronavirus?

Cough with mild or moderate severity of the course of COVID-19 is uncharacteristic: it is difficult to distinguish any features, except that it is dry, perspiring.

You should focus on a set of complaints: as a rule, with coronavirus infection there is no cold, and the temperature is low: 37,2–37,4. Often there is a lack of smell, sore throat, fatigue, a burning sensation in the chest.

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What cough develops with pneumonia?

Stronger, it can be accompanied by pain in the chest. Sputum appears: initially light, but may be streaked with blood or brown. A person's general well-being worsens and the temperature rises. In this case, you need to see a doctor, take an X-ray, because there are symptoms of inflammation of the lower respiratory tract: in addition to pneumonia, there may be bronchitis.

I would advise you to be more careful about CT: this is a high dose of radiation. On the one hand, any pneumonia is really visible on CT, and on the other hand, if there is inflammation in the lungs, the changes will be visible on a regular x-ray. Therefore, in case of malaise with not very pronounced symptoms, it is better to start with x-ray or fluorography.

How to treat a cough?

In the treatment of coughs, drugs are used that relieve the inflammatory process, swelling, irritation of the mucous membrane and excreting sputum (with a wet cough).

From the first days of the disease, when the cough is dry and there are signs of a viral infection, they take antiviral and immunomodulating drugs. With a dry cough, softening preparations for the mucous membrane of the throat (lozenges), rinses with herbal infusions and saline solutions, and warm drinks are used. If the cough is onset, then drugs based on anti-inflammatory herbs or drugs that suppress the cough reflex are used.

To remove sputum with a wet cough, drugs that expand the bronchi, reduce the viscosity of sputum, are required. These are diluting (mucolytic) agents. Inhalations with bronchodilator and expectorant drugs are also effective. It is good if there is a nebulizer (device for inhalation at home): with any cough, you can do inhalation with saline, mineral water.

To thin the sputum, you need to drink more liquid: fruit drinks, compotes, herbal teas, decoctions of herbs (thermopsis, licorice, sage, marshmallow).

Humidification of the air in the room also enhances the expectorant effect.

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What common mistakes in cough treatment are there?

In the early days of the disease, when the cough is still dry, people begin to drink mucolytic drugs, although they still do not have sputum. A dry cough may not go wet. At such a moment, it is better to use warm drink, medicines for resorption, gargling.

It must be remembered that cough is not always associated with respiratory diseases. It happens that with GERD due to coughing people start to drink mucolytic drugs, but this is not necessary: ​​the amount of acid in the stomach increases even more, it gets worse. There is a cough variant of asthma - a person unknowingly takes drugs for coughing, and specific anti-allergic drugs that are used for this type of disease are needed.

On the one hand, it makes no sense to rush to the doctor if a couple of days are bothered by a mild cough without other symptoms, but you should not self-medicate a cough that does not go away for weeks. Despite the abundance of available drugs in the pharmacy, a prolonged cough on your own is better not to treat. To understand what caused it, you need a complete examination: with the help of tests, studies of the function of external respiration and sputum, x-ray, CT, if necessary, specialist advice, then you can prescribe the correct and effective treatment.

The material is published for educational purposes and is not a recommendation. ForumDaily Woman is not responsible for any diagnosis made by the reader based on the materials of the site, as well as for the consequences of self-medication, and may not share the point of view of the author or expert.

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