This is one of several functions of the throat. It is something which we find annoying or uncomfortable but in fact, performs a necessary function.

What is ‘coughing?’

Coughing is an automatic reflex action by the body, caused by the stimulation of sensitive nerves within the trachea (windpipe). This action removes debris, irritants or signs of an infection from our airways or ‘our tubes’as they are more commonly known. When you cough, the larynx shuts off for an instant whilst the muscles of the both the chest and abdomen contract. This causes a sharp intake of breath.

As soon as the larynx opens up these muscles increase the amount of pressure required to expel air from the lungs. This blast of air is expelled at great force – as a ‘cough’ which then clears out the airways.

Often a single cough is only needed to clear out the airways but in other cases, a series of coughs are necessary to do so.

The ability to cough is important as it prevents bacteria, germs or any other debris from entering the lungs and causing an infection.

The throat plays an important part in coughing. The muscles of the throat, along with those of the chest and abdomen force uncontrollable air out of the body as well as removing any mucous or debris.

Coughing also helps to remove any food or liquid which has ‘gone down the wrong way’.

What usually happens is that the epiglottis usually closes over the opening to the larynx when we swallow food or drink which prevents it from entering the trachea and the lungs. This food and/or drink then passes down to the oesophagus. But occasionally, a small amount of food or drink enters the windpipe (trachea) by mistake which causes coughing. The coughing action helps to remove this irritant.

A cough along with a sore throat can be a sign of an infection.

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