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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Test Your Cough IQ

Why you cough, when you cough, and how you cough -- plus a quiz to test your cold and flu smarts.

Cold Coughs, Flu Coughs continued...

One infectious disease that's made a comeback, Schachter says, is whooping cough, which as its name implies is distinguished by its particular sound: a fit of coughing followed by a whooping sound as you try to catch your breath. "But most coughs associated with colds and flu will ultimately get better no matter what we do," he says.  

How much do you know about coughing? Test yourself with our questions here, but be sure to take our full cough quiz, too. 

1.What can cause a cough?
a. Allergies
b. Acid reflux
c. Secondhand smoke
d. All of the above 

Answer -- d. With allergies, a cough can be caused by postnasal drip -- mucus from your nose or sinuses that builds up in your throat. With heartburn, it might be from acid reflux -- acid that backs up into your throat. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause a cough. 

2. If you are coughing because you have a cold or flu, it's normal to cough up mucus.
True
False 

Answer -- True. Coughing up clear or yellow mucus is normal with a cold. You should see your doctor if you're coughing up mucus and have fever, chills, or shortness of breath. It could be a sign of pneumonia. 

3. What kind of cough can be treated with cough medicine?
a. Asthma
b. Chronic bronchitis
c. Cold or flu
d. Pneumonia 

Answer -- c. Cough medicine won't cure a cold- or flu-related cough, but it can help calm a cough. Talk to your doctor before you use cough medicine for a cough that is helping to clear your lungs -- such as one caused by smoking, emphysema, pneumonia, asthma, or chronic bronchitis. If your cough is due to asthma, it means your asthma is not under control. 

4. Which of these home remedies can help calm a cough?
a. Whiskey
b. Milk
c. Hard candy
d. Chocolate 

Answer -- c. Hard candies may ease a dry cough and soothe an irritated throat. Grandma might have prescribed a shot of whiskey for a cough, but there's no proof that it works. Plus, some cough and cold medicines should not be taken when drinking alcohol. Read the label. Chocolate and milk won't hurt a cough, but they won't necessarily help it. 

5. You should see a doctor for a cough that lasts:
a. One week 
b. More than 10 days
c. More than three weeks 
d. More than eight weeks 

Answer -- c. Most coughs from colds or flu go away in one to two weeks. But a cough that lingers two or more weeks after a cold or other respiratory tract infection might still go away on its own or it might need to be treated, so you should see a doctor for a diagnosis.

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Reviewed on November 08, 2010

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