Types of Coughs in Seniors: “Pardon me, I have a cough!”

What types of coughs are prevalent in seniors? What can a cough tell us about a person’s health? When discussing types of coughs in seniors, we can try to simplify the categories. Coughs come from so many causes. However, the common denominator between all coughs, is that the body is trying to expel something it considers an irritant.


How We Viewed Different Coughs over the Years

It is interesting that the 1913 edition of Websters references types of coughs that we no longer hear of. Do people suffer from a “stomach cough” or an “ear cough” caused by irritation in the stomach or ear? A “winter cough” was an annual cough caused by chronic bronchitis.

Paradoxically, a nervous cough or habit cough was only diagnosed as recently as 1966.

Nowadays we tend to discuss types of coughs in seniors, in more technical terms. Coughs are grouped by nature of the cough itself.  Doctors use these differences to understand which type of illness the cough indicates.



types of coughs in seniors - coughs are the bodys natural cleansing system

Winter is often charachterzed by types of coughs in seniors. But we can appreciate coughs as the body’s natural cleansing system!


What Sort of Cough is it?

Different types of coughs have similar and dissimilar characteristics.

We ask:

  • Does a person cough in the day or at night?
  • What does the cough sound like?
  • Can a cough indicate a major illness?
  • How long does a cough last?
  • What other symptoms appear together with the cough?


Five Types of Coughs in Seniors and Some Causes

Let’s look at a few types of coughs that seniors sometimes suffer from. Remember that coughing is considered to be a “protective mechanism”, according to Dr. Jonathan Parsons, a pulmonologist at Ohio’s Wexner Medical Center.


Chronic Cough

A chronic cough is one that last 8 weeks or more. Healthline points out that causes of a chronic cough can be as simple as a post-nasal drip or due to allergies.

We should never know of it, but a chronic cough can be a sign of other illnesses. Examples are: GERD – an acidic reflux condition, or COPD – a chronic breathing disturbance. We are also on the look out for chrinic coughs caused by prescription medicines.

Additionally, pneumonia or acute bronchitis can be ‘cough culprits’.

So, it is always sensible to get a cough checked out if it lasts several weeks, or is very disturbing.


Wet Cough

A wet cough is also called a ‘productive cough’ since a person brings up mucus. This is the body’s very effective way to clear the lungs and breathing system of mucus. A wet cough improves a person’s breathing. Other symptoms that accompany a wet cough are usually, a runny nose, tiredness, and a postnasal drip.

Wet coughs can be caused by the common cold, pneumonia, COPD, bronchitis or asthma.


Dry Cough

A dry cough is usually an annoying tickly cough. The tickle is felt in the back of the throat. It causes a person to cough in batches or hacking coughs.

Causes of a dry cough are many. Possible causes include: laryngitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, sinusitis, allergies, and GERD. Another cause is air-born irritants, such as dust or smoke – we could dub it ‘pollution-itis’.


Paroxysmal Cough

These types of paroxysmal coughs are usually seen more in younger children and adolescents. However, seniors should take care to see a doctor right away for whooping types of coughs in seniors. This type of cough is characterized by violent, breath-draining fits of coughing.

Causes of paroxysmal coughs are, COPD, asthma, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Another cause, also serious, but not related to infection, is choking. Choking events in a senior should be followed up by a visit to the doctor. This is a risk especially for a senior who had a stroke.


Night Cough

A night cough  could be any of several types of coughs covered above. A doctor who examines a person for a cough that comes specifically at night might suggest various remedies. It is possible that a daytime cough is made worse when a person lies down. This is problematic, since of course, one of the best ways to help a person recover from illness is resting.

A person can do their bit to clear the pipes by blowing their nose and even gargling before taking a rest. If a person is generally healthy, then possibly, the home-remedies will help with the condition as it get worse at night time. Night coughs need to be treated by seeing a doctor, as with daytime coughs, especially if there is a chronic lung/heart condition.


Ahem, Ahem, Please Pass the Water

A senior should always pay attention to health basics, even when dealing with a simple cough. Many types of coughs in seniors can be eased, by making sure to drink sufficiently. Water in the body helps to make the mucus runny. That way the issue can get cured more quickly. Water in the body also gives the immune system more ‘juice’ to flush out the germs from the body.

If a person is not sure how much water they should be drinking, they should ask their doctor. If there is a separate medical condition, the doctor will take that into account. The different types of coughs in seniors can indicate what is going on in the body. And we should each do out part to help the body fight the coughs.

Original Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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