In Focus:

Here's why coughing can be good for you

Coughing is associated with conditions and diseases like colds, flu and TB, and has therefore always been a personal and public health concern. But did you know that coughing can actually be good for you? Many people believe that coughing is a sign of a serious underlying medical condition and want to rush to the doctor – but more often than not it's caused by nothing more than an irritant in one's windpipe and lungs. A natural bodily function A cough is a normal reflex. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), this bodily function helps clear your airways of irritants, thereby preventing infection. It's a defence mechanism to protect your body from foreign particles that have entered your windpipe and lungs. These foreign particles can include dust particles in the air, smoke, mucus, phlegm, or allergens like pollen perfume and mould. Health24 explains how the cough reflex works: 1. Air needs to be inhaled into the air passages when the glottis (the vocal cords and the opening between them) opens. 2. Air is forced out of the lungs and the air passage when the muscles of the chest cage, abdomen, and the diaphragm contract. This happens while the glottis is closed. 3. Once the glottis opens, air is expelled, resulting in a cough. Coughing can also be deliberate. We often clear our throats before we speak or to get someone's attention. But this doesn’t mean that coughing cannot be a cause for concern.

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