ALAIN DEX, PUBLIPHOTO DIFFUSION / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ALAIN DEX, PUBLIPHOTO DIFFUSION / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Coughing. A woman coughs into her hand. Coughing is a reflex action to try to clear the airways of mucus, sputum (phlegm), a foreign body, or other irritants and blockages. Inflammation of the upper respiratory tract due to viral infection (such as colds and flu) or irritation by dust, smoke or gases most commonly cause coughs. Bronchitis, the inflammation of air passages into the lungs, produces thick mucus and causes severe coughing. This may be caused by infection but is more often the result of smoking. Treatment for coughs depends upon the underlying disorder.
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