Modified and translated by CFJA
If you have a cough, be cautious, as it could be a precursor to a serious illness.
With the arrival of winter and the air becoming dry, the low humidity and dryness of the season make it easier for colds to spread, and extra caution is needed from December to February. It’s often said that ‘a cold is the source of all illnesses,’ and a typical symptom of a cold is a cough. Therefore, many people might dismiss a cough as just a cold and not suspect it as a sign of a more serious illness.
However, a persistent cough can also be a sign of a viral infection, or even a precursor to serious conditions like pulmonary tuberculosis or a heart attack. If your cough does not subside despite getting enough sleep and rest, it is necessary to consult a specialist.
Coughing is one of the autonomous defense functions, special attention is needed for children and the elderly.
Coughing is an action to expel foreign substances that have entered the airway. In other words, it is an autonomous defense function. The airway and esophagus are always connected to the external air. During eating, a hard tissue called the epiglottis covers the airway to prevent food from entering the trachea, and the esophagus expands. When not eating, the airway becomes wider and the esophagus narrows.
When chewing starts in the mouth, they work in conjunction. However, if you swallow something in a hurry, the tissue movement may not keep up, and the substance may accidentally enter the airway. At that time, the act of coughing occurs to detect the foreign object and expel it.
In children, difficulty in swallowing (chewing or swallowing food) may indicate that the epiglottis is infected with bacteria, leading to epiglottitis. This can be life-threatening, so immediate examination by a specialist is necessary.
In adults, if coughing occurs during difficulty in swallowing food, one possible cause is a decrease in the function related to the movement of the epiglottis. To prevent the decline in throat function, it is necessary to gargle before eating and drinking to maintain oral hygiene, chew well before swallowing, mix saliva with liquids instead of just swallowing them, and perform activities such as rotating the neck and shoulders to maintain joint flexibility.
In the case of the elderly, in Japan, choking deaths often caused by mochi (rice cakes) during the New Year’s season are associated with dysfunction of the epiglottis. Since this can also be due to a decline in internal organ function, overlooking a cough can be dangerous.