Coughs are reflex actions designed to clear the body' s airways of mucus and irritants. Coughs are rarely a sign of anything serious and in most cases, they clear up within three weeks without the need for treatment.
Chesty coughs are sometimes referred to as productive coughs. This type of cough means that mucus is produced to help clear the airways. Chesty coughs are usually caused by a build-up of phlegm in the lungs, which results in chest congestion. Chest congestion is a common symptom of a respiratory tract infection, which can be caused by irritants, viruses or bacteria entering the lungs.
Respiratory tract infections can result in an inflammation of the airways that causes the lungs to produce extra phlegm or mucus. The cough mechanism is the body’s way of then expunging this excess phlegm. Examples of respiratory tract infections include:
- Whooping cough
Rarely, a persistent chesty cough can be caused by a more serious underlying condition, such as lung cancer, heart failure, pulmonary embolism or tuberculosis. If a cough has lasted more than three weeks, or if it starts to get worse instead of better, it is recommended that you contact a GP.