How Do We Cough? - The Mechanism of Coughing - Cough Reflex Animation - Learn Human Body

How Do We Cough? – The Mechanism of Coughing – Cough Reflex Animation – Learn Human Body

Coughing is a sudden expulsion of air from the lungs through the epiglottis at an amazingly fast speed (estimated at 100 miles per hour). With such a strong force of air, coughing is the body’s mechanism for clearing the breathing passageways of unwanted irritants.

In order for a cough to occur, several events need to take place in sequence. First, the vocal cords open widely, allowing additional air to pass through into the lungs.

Then the epiglottis closes off the windpipe (larynx), and simultaneously, the abdominal and rib muscles contract, increasing the pressure behind the epiglottis. With the increased pressure, the air is forcefully expelled, and creates a rushing sound as it moves very quickly past the vocal cords. The rushing air dislodges the irritant, making it possible to breathe comfortably again.



A cough (About this sound pronunciation (help·info) Latin: tussis) is a sudden and often repetitively occurring reflex which helps to clear the large breathing passages from secretions, irritants, foreign particles and microbes. The cough reflex consists of three phases: an inhalation, a forced exhalation against a closed glottis, and a violent release of air from the lungs following opening of the glottis, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound.[1] Coughing is either voluntary or involuntary.

Frequent coughing usually indicates the presence of a disease. Many viruses and bacteria benefit evolutionarily by causing the host to cough, which helps to spread the disease to new hosts. Most of the time, irregular coughing is caused by a respiratory tract infection but can also be triggered by choking, smoking, air pollution,[1] asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, post-nasal drip, chronic bronchitis, lung tumors, heart failure and medications such as ACE inhibitors.

Treatment should target the cause; for example, smoking cessation or discontinuing ACE inhibitors. Cough suppressants such as codeine or dextromethorphan are frequently prescribed, but have been demonstrated to have little effect. Other treatment options may target airway inflammation or may promote mucus expectoration. As it is a natural protective reflex, suppressing the cough reflex might have damaging effects, especially if the cough is productive.[2]


The mechanism of cough

How do we cough? What happens in you throat and lungs? This action reminds one of a pressure cooker blowing off steam.

Sensing something is wrong…

Both the upper and lower airways are lined by slow-reacting and fast reacting receptors which can respond to a number of different types of stimuli ranging from dust to irritant gases as well as excess mucus. Once the receptors are triggered, a signal is sent via the vagus nerve, setting up a reflex with the signal being transmitted to your brainstem and consciousness making you aware that you need to clear these noxious particles or gases.

Preparing for the cough…

The cough centre situated in the medulla in a matter of milliseconds, makes your consciousness aware of the fact that you need to cough as well as sending impulse back down to the diaphragm and intercostal rib muscles, preparing them for the cough action.

The first action is that the diaphragm ‘drops’ to suck air into the chest filling the thoracic cavity. The second action following the diaphragm movement is the glottis or ‘voice box’ closes to prevent any air from leaving the chest.

Finally the actual cough…

Thereafter the cough centre triggers the diaphragm and intercostal muscles to contract, making the thoracic cavity smaller and building up pressure inside the chest… then the closed glottis opens allowing the high pressure air to suddenly escape from the chest through the airways hopefully taking with it any irritating particles, foreign bodies or phlegm which triggered the entire reflex to start with. Air leaving the chest can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h and even faster in the event of a sneeze!



A cough is a protective reflex in healthy individuals which is influenced by psychological factors.[3] The cough reflex is initiated by stimulation of two different classes of afferent nerves, namely the myelinated rapidly adapting receptors, and nonmyelinated C-fibers with endings in the lungs. However it is not certain that the stimulation of nonmyelinated C-fibers leads to cough with a reflex as it’s meant in physiology (with its own five components): this stimulation may cause mast cells degranulation (through an asso-assonic reflex) and edema which may work as a stimulus for rapidly adapting receptors.



Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Sona Monareply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Can clean it with brush ??

Sewing Machine Workshopreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Who's watching this during covid?

Kamal Shuklareply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Watching it while coughing , sneezing & runny nose. #Covid-ve 😂

March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I'm very sick today
I can't stop caughing
I have a running nose, can not controlled it

Atti Vampreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Nice !!

Invalid Characterreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I'm with all the people who have been coughing.
I couldn't attend school since I got pretty bad-

March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

It’s funny to see comments here that they’re watching this while they’re coughing because damn man I am too! ~cough cough

Nick Chatzireply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

You know what’s an irritant? Coughing for 3 days straight ffs

pc Ljs96reply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Bronchitis patient is here

March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

That slow cough demonstration is pure gold

Edson Romeroreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Any Mexicans watching this?

Edson Romeroreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I'm dying and I wanted to see what was happening

March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I’m fucking dieing coughing here and you’re calcuting the force of air ?

March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

watching while im dying of a cough attack at 1:44 am

Atti Vampreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

We are super creation of God. Almighty n powerful.

It’s Mereply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I’m watching this while I have the flu and a really bad cough

Winner From Indiareply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Excellent Video🤘👍

Neo Virzreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

i find that if you stop breathing for a couple seconds the coughing stops for a while

March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I've been coughing for 2 weeks. And it's getting worse

Fair Face Health Plusreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Hi. Good one

Alina Bishopreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I'm coughing so much I can barley breath and I want to gag so much rn .

Raunak Guptareply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Aba hindi nehi bol sakti kya

A. B.reply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Why does this video only mention the epiglottis closing but not the glottis? Wouldn't the vocal folds close during a cough?

Gracie Moorereply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Who is watching this while coughing ? 😷

March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Oh ok so thats why I always ‘choke’ on my own saliva or while drinking water

internet explorerreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm


And this took us (humans) 4.6 billion years to discover ._.

Diane Manaloreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

i have a cough raigth now its soo hard tu talk 😑

March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

this proves that any products to treat a cough through the mouth wont work! the trachea is whats irritated not the oesophagus where syrup would be swallowed

toxic cookiereply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

That explains why I cough constantly without no air when I choke on my own Silvia

Eric Carterreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

Wow 100 mph

Abaan Khanreply
March 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

the background music makes me feel like i am watching some sorta documentary on WW2

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