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Clues About a Cough

When a Cough Isn’t “Just a Cough”

By , Caring.com contributing editor
Last updated: November 03, 2014
95% helpful
woman with a cough

From a discreet tickle in the throat to a relentless "smoker's cough," coughing is a reflex we can't resist. Though these odd noises that come up the respiratory tract and out the mouth are wordless, they have plenty to tell.

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In fact, coughing is the top complaint people bring to doctors' offices. "Coughing is a very general symptom that can reflect minor irritation or serious problems in the airways or the lungs themselves," says internist and pulmonologist Norman Edelman, medical director of the American Lung Association.

So what's your cough saying? Here are five questions that lead to important clues.