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Difference Between Coughing and Gagging

Coughing and gagging are uncomfortable situations not only in babies but also in adults. While the causes vary, preventive measures and treatments differ depending on the cause as well as the severity. In babies, gagging may be uncomfortable but it is important as it helps define the size and shape of food that can be safely swallowed. In this article, we will look at the differences between coughing and gagging.  

Coughing

This is an involuntary reaction that helps expel air from the lungs coupled with foreign stimulants such as fluids, mucus and other particles. As such, it helps clear any blockage or obstruction that could prevent the flow of air through the airway. 

Since it is a natural defence mechanism, it is best to let a person cough to get the blockage out. 

Although coughing can be done deliberately or as part of reflex, it can also be a sign of other underlying medical conditions or illnesses and should not be ignored without proper diagnosis. 

Causes of short-term cough include common colds, flu or laryngitis. It can also be a result of lower respiratory infections including pneumonia or bronchitis. 

Gagging

This is a reflex action that occurs when food items or drinks are swallowed too fast or go down the wrong way. Although it also happens in adults, it is common in babies, the elderly and people with medical conditions that affect the ability to swallow. 

Signs of gagging include:

  • Open mouth and tongue thrust forward
  • Cough 
  • Looks of discomfort and frustration

Often, babies might gag when starting feeding on solid foods. This is because the gag reflex is far forward. It, however, moves back as the babies age. Although it may be unpleasant, it serves as a safety mechanism against choking as it ejects anything if need be. It also helps determine the shape and size of food that can be safely swallowed. 

For safety, caregivers should ensure that babies sit upright when feeding. Also, trying to take out food from the babies’ mouth when they are gagging is dangerous as one could accidentally push the food further, increasing the chances of choking. 

Similarities between Coughing and Gagging

  • Both can be dramatic and noisy

Differences between Coughing and Gagging

Definition

Coughing refers to a reflex action that occurs when food items or drinks are swallowed too fast or go down the wrong way. On the other hand, gagging refers to a reflex action that occurs when food items or drinks are swallowed too fast or go down the wrong way.

Mechanism

Coughing is a defence or reflex action that helps clear any blockage or obstruction that could prevent the flow of air through the airway. On the other hand, gagging is a reflex action that against choking by ejecting anything if need be. 

Coughing vs. Gagging: Comparison Table

Summary of Coughing vs. Gagging

Coughing refers to a reflex action that occurs when food items or drinks are swallowed too fast or go down the wrong way. On the other hand, gagging refers to a reflex action that occurs when food items or drinks are swallowed too fast or go down the wrong way. Both can however, be dramatic and noisy. 


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References :


[0]Caroline C., American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Nancy Caroline's Emergency Care in the Streets. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2010.https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=0EUkpjUzTPQC&pg=SA11-PA17&dq=Difference+between+coughing+and+gagging&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi9tLalpLvsAhXD2eAKHdfvAzoQ6AEwBXoECAMQAg#v=onepage&q=Difference%20between%20coughing%20and%20gagging&f=false

[1]Josephson M & Zimetbaum P. Practical Clinical Electrophysiology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=VZakJLatx3AC&pg=PA163&dq=Difference+between+coughing+and+gagging&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi9tLalpLvsAhXD2eAKHdfvAzoQ6AEwAHoECAAQAg#v=onepage&q=Difference%20between%20coughing%20and%20gagging&f=false

[2]Adele Pillitteri. Maternal & Child Health Nursing: Care of the Childbearing & Childrearing Family. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=apeLf0mPx1QC&pg=PA1168&dq=Difference+between+coughing+and+gagging&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi9tLalpLvsAhXD2eAKHdfvAzoQ6AEwAXoECAEQAg#v=onepage&q=Difference%20between%20coughing%20and%20gagging&f=false

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gagging_demonstration.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/50451663628_024cc5e226_b.jpg

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