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Cough is an essential protective reflex response to irritating stimuli in the respiratory tract. It involves the sudden, usually involuntary, expulsion of air from the lungs. Cough can prevent foreign bodies from entering the lungs or aid the removal of mucus and irritants from the lungs. Cough is a common symptom in upper respiratory tract infections and more chronically in asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and lung cancer or may also indicate some other underlying disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is also frequently caused by smoking. Conversely, in certain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and motor neuron disease, cough may be severely affected, and the patient loses this protective function. Cough is useful if it is aiding the expulsion of foreign substances, but chronic cough is an unpleasant, difficult symptom for patients to live with and maybe debilitating.
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