Coughing is how the body removes mucus, dust and other foreign particles from the lungs and airways. It’s also how the body reacts to irritation of the airway.

Coughing is a symptom, not a disease. Its characteristics and related symptoms help determine its cause.

Productive Coughs

Productive coughs produce phlegm, which comes from the sinuses or the lungs. Productive cough can be caused by a number of illnesses or conditions, such as bronchitis, sinusitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, chronic lung disease, acid reflux disease, nasal discharge and smoking. These coughs shouldn’t be suppressed so the mucus gets cleared from the lungs.

Nonproductive Cough

A nonproductive cough is dry. A dry hacking cough can develop at the end of a cold or after exposure to smoke or dust. Dry coughs can be caused by viral illnesses, irritation of the airway, allergies, certain medications and asthma.