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Types Of Cough By Sound: 'The Doctors' Diagnose With Their Ears (VIDEO)

When coughing up a lung, we've all heard the sympathetic remark, "Gee, that cough sounds bad." But what your cough sounds can actually reveal its cause, TV's The Doctors say.

"One of the best ways to diagnose a cough, and the way we do it, is by listening," says Travis Stork, MD.

He and James "Dr. Jim" Sears, MD aurally identified four major types of coughs -- whooping cough, croup, dry cough and wet cough -- in their March 7 episode.

Which cough sounds like you might need a trip to the doctor? Listen closely to the video to find out, or read the cough descriptions below.

Whooping cough

A sharp gasp for breath at the end of a long coughing spell characterizes whooping cough.

This highly contagious cough is Canada's most frequently reported vaccine-preventable disease, Health Canada says. Although anyone can contract the disease, it puts infants at risk and kills one to three babies a year, mostly due to improper vaccination.

Last month, B.C. stockpiled vaccines to prepare for a possible whooping cough outbreak, as over 100 cases had already been reported, according to the CBC.


Infamous for its "barking" cough, croup is a viral infection that results in swollen vocal chords and throat, The Lung Association says.

It commonly affects children and worsens at night, so if your child starts barking at the moon, put him/her in a steamy shower to alleviate the symptoms.

"That steam, that moist air can really help it," Sears said, although steroids can also prove helpful in serious cases.

Dry Cough

A dry cough is so called because it doesn't produce phlegm. It can result from a wide variety of problems, from mild environmental irritants, such as smoke, to disorders or infectious diseases, such as asthma, the flu or pneumonia.

Productive/Wet Cough

"Just a regular old cold gives you wetness in the cough because again all that junk in your nasal passages it goes back into your throat into your airways, you're coughing it up," Stork says.

Besides a cold or influenza, bronchitis and pneumonia can also cause wet coughs.

Depending on the cough's cause and severity, and its timespan, remedies such as over-the-counter cough syrup may do the trick, or you might need to see a doctor.

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