Ailments & Conditions

Why We Cough and 6 Ways to Not Cough so Much

How Our Lungs Work

A cough keeps these irritants out by forcing whatever it is up and out of our throat on a pocket of air. This has proven over time to be incredibly effective at keeping our lungs free of contaminants. But how bad would it really be if our lungs were irritated? What would happen if there were contaminants in our lungs?

The way our lungs work is by taking in the oxygen from the air that we breathe. The surface area of our lungs is designed to allow the oxygen that comes in to penetrate and enter the bloodstream. This requires plenty of open surface area within our lungs that is not contaminated. Contaminants could include mucus, water, or other materials that have somehow entered into our lungs.

The oxygen then binds with red blood cells and travels throughout the body to wherever we need it. If we don’t have enough oxygen, that can lead to cramping, fatigue, or even a stroke. Clearly, keeping our airways open is one of the most essential parts of our respiratory system. Therefore, when needed, a cough is irreplaceable.

Imagine you are drinking a glass of water and a little bit of the water goes down the wrong pipe. We’ve all probably done this, so it doesn’t take much imagination to know what happens next. We cough. The purpose of that cough is to get the irritant, in this case, the water, out of our airway where it doesn’t belong. What would happen if we didn’t cough? That water would run down our airway into our lungs. Over time, our lungs would fill with water and we wouldn’t be able to breathe. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen.