Chest congestion and cough are two common health conditions that have many different causes. These uncomfortable sensations often accompany viral and bacterial illnesses like a cold or pneumonia, but can also be the result of lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking. Chronic or reoccurring conditions like asthma, allergies, and acid reflux can also cause a cough or congestion. An individual experiencing troublesome symptoms should evaluate his or her situation and, if necessary, visit a health care provider to address the problem and determine the best treatment plan.
There are many different short-term illnesses that can cause chest congestion and cough. The common cold often includes respiratory signs like cough, runny nose, and congestion. Conditions like whooping cough and croup produce distinctive symptoms. The cough of croup is often described as the sound of a barking seal, while whooping cough results in violent coughing episodes with a characteristic whooping noise as the patient gasps for air.
Cigarette smoking is a habit that is destructive to the lung tissue. Smoke and tar enters and coats the lungs, resulting in permanent damage to the organs and obstructive pulmonary diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. A smoker often experiences discomforts like chest congestion, as well as a cough, sore throat, restricted breathing, and reduced oxygen flow to the body. The damage caused by cigarette smoking is not reversible, but a person who quits smoking and consults with a health care professional can often take steps to control the symptoms and improve his or her quality of life.
Asthma and allergies are also causes feelings of chest congestion and cough. When asthma is accompanied by a dry, non-productive cough, it is called cough-variant asthma. This illness may or may not display other common asthma symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath. Asthma can also result in tightness in the chest similar to the feeling of congestion. Likewise, allergies to pollen, dust, and animals can cause a cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and congestion.
A lesser known cause these symptoms is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), commonly known as acid reflux. The condition originates in the esophagus with a weak valve that allows acid to flow up out of the stomach. Stomach acid that leaks into the esophagus can stimulate nerves that cause coughing. It can also inflame the throat and infect the lungs. GERD might also result in the same chest tightness and wheezing normally experienced with chest congestion.