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What Is A Cough?


What is a cough image

When you take a sip of water and it goes down the wrong pipe your body forces it out by blasting air at up to 160 km/h to clear it – it’s how your body removes foreign materials or mucus from the lungs and upper airway passages or reacts to an irritated airway4

What Causes a Wet Cough?

A wet cough is caused by phlegm or mucus (sputum). So, when you have a wet cough it means that there is mucus or other fluid within the upper or lower respiratory tract2.  This can happen in conditions that affect one or both lungs, the bronchi, the larynx, or the pharynx. It may also be associated with more generalized conditions, such as a cold, hay fever, or the flu2.  

There are many ways that mucus finds its way into your lungs. It may have drained down the back of the throat from the nose or sinuses while you had the sniffles or it may have come up from the lungs because of an infection1. A mucus-producing cough is good and generally should not be suppressed because it’s doing what it does best - clears mucus from the lungs1.

Causes Of A Wet Cough:

  • Viral illnesses1 :
    - A wet cough is normal when you have a common cold.
    - Coughing is often triggered by mucus draining down the back of the throat.
  • Bacterial infections1.
    - Bacterial infection of the lungs or upper airway passages can cause a cough.
    - A wet cough may be a symptom of pneumonia, bronchitis or sinusitis.
  • Stomach Acid
    - Stomach acid backing up into the oesophagus1
    - May be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
    - May awaken you from sleep.
  • Nasal discharge1
    - A draining down the back of the throat.
    - Can cause a wet cough.
    - Feel the need to constantly clear your throat.
    - Experts disagree about whether a postnasal drip or the viral illness that caused it is responsible for the cough.
  • Tobacco Use1
    - A smoker with a wet cough is often a sign of lung damage or irritation of the throat or oesophagus.

A cough is only a symptom, not a disease, and often the importance of your cough can only be determined when other symptoms are evaluated. If you have other symptoms, such as a sore throat, sinus pressure, ear pain, fever, rash or a persistent headache, and if your cough continues for more than a week then speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Symptoms of a wet cough3

  • Heaviness in the chest
  • Slight to severe breathlessness
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Drainage of mucus into the throat

Expectorants, like the BENYLIN® Wet Cough range, help your body by thinning the mucus in your lungs and making it easier to cough mucus up when you have a wet cough4. Use an expectorant if you have a cough that produces thick mucus and are having trouble coughing the mucus up4. This will give your body a fighting chance to get you back out there quicker.

Click here to learn more about expectorants


  1. WebMD. Coughs, Age 12 and Older. is external) - Accessed 25 October 2016
  2. Lloyd.W.C. What Is a Wet Cough? 2016. is external) – Accessed 25 October 2016
  3. The Health Site. Productive cough. is external) Accessed 25 October 2016
  4. WebMD. Coughs, Age 12 and Older. is external)
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