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Coughing is more than a reflex or a symptom; it’s an innate behavioral trait. We’ve compiled a list of informative notes and facts about coughing to showcase this miraculous bodily function. 

RELATED: There’s So Much More We Could Do With Cough

The Anatomy of a Cough

Everyone coughs from time to time to clear obstructions from the throat and lungs. It may start with a tickle in your throat, for instance, a speck of dust or a drop of water traveling down the wrong pipe. 

Regardless of the cause, a cough sets off a chain reaction to expel the invader that involves at least seven body parts:

  • Windpipe
  • Epiglottis
  • Vocal cords
  • Lungs 
  • Chest muscles
  • Diaphragm
  • Abdominal muscles

First, the windpipe opens up wider to allow more air into the lungs. Next, the lungs compress the extra air, and the epiglottis slams shut, increasing the air pressure. Then, the diaphragm, chest, and abdominal muscles contract simultaneously, which forces the compressed air out in a fraction of a second. Lastly, speeding air passes the vocal cords resulting in a barking sound.

Quick Facts About Coughing

  • An average cough fills roughly 75% of a two-liter bottle.
  • A single cough expels about 3000 tiny droplets of saliva. Furthermore, the saliva from a single cough may contain up to 200 million virus particles. 
  • In general, saliva droplets travel at 80 km/h (50 mph). But a powerful cough is faster than a bullet train. It can reach speeds of up to 800 km/h (500 mph) with enough force to break a rib. 
  • A cough can also launch droplets up to 6 meters (19 feet) away. For this reason, it’s vital to cover your mouth when you cough to prevent a virus from spreading.
  • Not all coughs are contagious. Additionally, you don’t have to be sick to cough. Healthy adults may cough 20 times or more on a typical day.
  • Phlegm can range from clear to yellow-green, and brown but thicker doesn’t necessarily mean sicker. However, it does indicate you should up your fluid intake to help thin out mucus and make it easier to expel.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) or consumption is a potentially fatal disease caused by bacteria. Before the Industrial Revolution, consumption meant almost certain death, and folklore linked it to vampires. Patients slowly wasted away, and often, the rest of the family would also lose their health. Many believed the original person with TB was draining the family’s life force like vampires drain their victims’ blood. 

In Europe, mortality rates fell dramatically by the 1950s, but TB is a public health crisis in many developing countries. Moreover, the prevalence of multiple drug-resistant strains has increased by 10% since 2018.

Hyfe cough tracking may help millions of people stay on top of their health and potentially aid the global response to public health crises.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough killed more than 6000 children in the United States annually before two ex-teachers created a vaccine in the 1930s. Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering spent every moment of their free time collecting samples and researching bacteria to fight the deadly disease.

Pneumonia

Most of us are familiar with pneumonia. It’s a relatively common, preventable, and treatable infection, but it kills more children under five than any other disease.

So far, experts have identified 30 distinct causes of pneumonia, ranging from bacteria and viruses to microbes that are neither. Some fungi also cause pneumonia. What’s more, you can contract pneumonia from germs that live inside your body if your immune system is low.

According to some studies, breastmilk may protect infants and young children against pneumonia. 

RELATED: Why Cough Tracking Is A Valuable Diagnosis Tool

Facts About Coughing Remedies

The cough medicine of the late 1800s contained opioids, such as heroin leading to widespread addiction. Today’s cough syrup may no longer contain heroin, but some have codeine or dextromethorphan (DM), which are habit-forming. Abusing DM may also cause hallucinations, referred to as cough syrup psychosis.

Remedies with opium derivatives work by suppressing the cough reflex, whereas others help expel mucus or inhibit phlegm production.

Cough syrup isn’t the only way to relieve a cough. One study found honey may be an effective cough remedy, especially for children. It may even be more effective than over-the-counter cough suppressants.

Eastern medicine has a different approach to cough remedies. In Chinese medicine, there are many coughs patterns, including:

  • Liver-fire attack
  • Phlegm-dampness attack
  • Phlegm-heat accumulation
  • Yin deficiency
  • Dry-heat
  • Wind-heat
  • Wind-cold

And many others relating to the time of day, season, or strength of a cough. As a result, they have a remedy for each type. For example, treat hot coughs with cooling herbs or use herbs that promote warmth for a wind-cold type cough.

Here are a few cough ludicrous ideas cough facts about coughing in pop culture.

From depicting stereotypes to poetry, coughs are everywhere. Yet, coughs are so ingrained in our daily lives we barely notice them.

For example, you cough up money when you would prefer not to pay. And saying cough-cough usually alludes to you knowing something someone else doesn’t. You also “cough” as a response if someone says something ridiculous, to break the silence, or to disguise an insult. 

Take a moment to picture the stereotypical nerd in movies. They’re often less attractive, part of some academic club, and they have an inhaler. Thanks to Hollywood, an inhaler and the cough are unfairly synonymous with geekiness by extension.

Popular culture also trained us to treat coughs with suspicion. More often than not, if a character coughs, they rarely live to tell the tale. The Incurable Cough of Death, as the site TV Tropes calls it, dates back centuries. It’s especially prominent in Victorian romance novels such as Jane Eyre, written when coughs were a sign of consumption. 

More recent additions include Finding Neverland and Moulin Rouge! and the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. Even Yoda succumbs to the incurable cough in Return of the Jedi. Consequently, we instinctively associate a cough with doom. And for some, it’s a significant source of anxiety during the pandemic.

Clinicians often underutilize coughs for diagnoses because it’s difficult to quantify them. For patients, coughs are mostly a source of concern or annoyance. But there is so much more to a cough. Using Hyfe App is a step towards better understanding because it provides usable data and takes away some of the guesswork. Hopefully, these facts shed some new light on coughs, and the next time you hear a cough, you take a moment to think about how valuable they are. 

Know any interesting facts about coughs? Share your wisdom in the comment section!

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