Different types of cough in children and adults

Different types of cough

There are different types of cough, according to the related disease. 

Coughing is a normal reflex to get rid of mucus and external irritants.

In this article, we learn about the different types of cough, their sounds and causes in adults and children.

Different types of coughs

Coughs are classified into three main types based on their severity:

Acute cough

Acute cough occurs when a cough lasts less than three weeks and begins to improve in the second week.

Subacute cough

The cough persists from three to eight weeks.

Chronic cough

The cough persists for more than eight weeks.

Dry cough causes in adults

Dry cough develops no phlegm or sputum, but it may seriously affect one’s daily life if persistent or exaggerating at night.

Causes of dry cough include:


Asthma is a respiratory condition in which the airways narrow and swell.

The cough provoked by Asthma may be wet but is mostly dry.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

It is also referred to as chronic acid reflux.

The gastric acids flow to the esophagus, leading to esophageal irritation and cough.

Viral infection

Usually, the cough associated with a viral infection is dry and may persist for two months.

It develops due to airway irritation and allergies following a viral infection.

Environmental irritants

Some environmental surroundings irritate the airway, such as smoke, pollution, dust, or pollen grains.

Angiotensin-converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE Inhibitors):

Here are a few examples of ACE inhibitors:

  • Enalapril.
  • Lisinopril.

The previously mentioned medications help in the treatment of hypertension. 

However, one of their most significant side effects is a dry cough and itchy throat.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough is an infectious condition that causes a severe dry cough followed by a loud whooping sound during inhalation.

It was once widespread, but now children are immunized against it.

It is found only among non-immunized young children or adults who have lost their immunity over time.

Asphyxia of the lungs

Lungs collapse when they shrink suddenly due to chest injury causing the following issues:

  • Dry cough.
  • Sudden chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.

Lung cancer

If the dry cough is bloody, even a small quantity, it may indicate lung cancer.

Why do you cough in your sleep?

People with a runny nose or postnasal drip are more liable to cough during sleep.

That is because phlegm drips from the nose to the throat when lying down at night.

Two common causes for nighttime cough:

  • Postnasal drip.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux.

Persistent (chronic) cough causes

About 40% of people experience chronic cough, which persists for more than eight weeks.

If you experience this type of cough, you should visit the physician immediately.

Causes of chronic cough include:

  • Asthma.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
  • Acute pneumonia.
  • Heart failure.
  • Lung cancer.

Productive (wet) cough

The productive cough is also known as chesty cough; due to the production of phlegm or sputum, which causes chest tightness and difficulty breathing.

Causes of wet cough:

  • Common colds and flu.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Pneumonia.
  • COPD.
  • Smoking.

When should you visit the doctor?

You should consult the doctor if the productive cough results in:

  • Blood with cough.
  • High temperature.
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • Cough, especially at night.
  • Chest pain.
  • If it persists for more than five days.

Causes of cough in children

Causes of cough in children

Different types of cough in children have multiple causes, for example:

Barking cough

When a child’s airway is inflamed, the vocal cord may swell; resulting in a barking cough.

Causes of a barking cough in babies and toddlers include:

  • Allergies.
  • Temperature changes during the night.
  • Viral infection in the upper respiratory tract.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough is characterized by a severe intermittent cough followed by a loud inhaling noise that sounds like a whoop.

It is also worth mentioning that risk of acquiring this disease increases if the child does not receive whooping cough vaccinations.

Wheezing cough

When a child has a cough with a wheezing sound, this may be due to something partially blocking the airway.

Causes of a wheezing cough in babies and toddlers include:

Stridor cough

Doctors diagnose the whistle sound during inhalation as stridor.

Causes of stridor include:

  • Swelling of airway due to viral infection.
  • Epiglottis inflammation.

Sudden cough

When a child coughs unexpectedly, it could be due to swallowed food or liquids accidentally entering the airway.

Nighttime cough

Reasons for night cough in children:

  • Nose and sinus congestion causes irritation while lying in bed.
  • Asthmatic attacks may cause nighttime cough.

Daytime cough

Allergies, Asthma, common colds and respiratory tract infections are the most vital causes of daytime cough in children.

Other causes also include;

  • Cough due to Influenza virus.
  • Cough accompanied with fever.
  • Persistent cough.


To sum up, a cough is a normal body response to clear the throat when something irritates it.

As a result, it is essential to understand the different types of cough, and when it is necessary to consult a doctor.

Cough affects both children and adults, although it affects children more severely.


Read also;

Vitamin C| Countless benefits for immunity and skin

Translated by
Dr. Shrouk Osama

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