Cough Treatment Options

A cough is a reaction produced by your body to remove any irritants, secretions or foreign particles from your breathing passages. It can also be a symptom of various respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and respiratory tract infection. Furthermore, a person suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD can also complain of an irritated throat and cough.

Cough is usually classified as acute when it lasts for up to 3 weeks and chronic when it lasts for more than 8 weeks. A mild cough may go away naturally and not really interfere in one’s daily life. But it can be a problem when it lasts longer and starts affecting the quality of life of an individual.

Irrespective of the duration, it is essential to observe the symptoms and undertake effective cough treatment to get relief in due course. Common cough treatments include a few lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications such as the following:

Stay hydrated
Postnasal drip can cause irritation, making you cough repeatedly. Staying hydrated by drinking lots of fluids can thin out the mucus and soothe the throat. Also, if your cough is dry, drinking water can moisten your mucus membranes and prevent any throat irritation. Other alternatives are drinking warm water with honey or sipping a glass of lemon juice. 

Get steam treatments
Inhaling steam or taking a steamy shower can help loosen secretions and moisten the nasal passages. This is a conventional cough treatment which helps clear out congestion by introducing warm air to the nose and throat. You can also inhale steam infused with herbs such as peppermint which are effective decongestants and help soothe an irritated throat.

Avoid irritants
A cough can also be triggered by irritants such as dust, smoke, perfumes and so on. These irritants may stimulate the production of mucus and make you cough. Start by keeping your bedding and surroundings clean.  Consider a face mask before stepping out to reduce your exposure to irritants.

Quit smoking
Smoking irritates the lungs and the respiratory tract which can make a person cough persistently. Cough due to smoking usually develops gradually and is chronic in nature. It can also increase the risk of developing pneumonia and bronchitis. You will notice an improvement in your condition if you quit smoking and avoid exposure to second hand smoke. 

Reduce stomach acid
In case of GERD, the acid content from the stomach flows back into the oesophagus, which can lead to irritation and cough. Incorporate minor changes such as eating meals in small proportions, waiting for a few hours after dinner before going to bed and elevating your head while sleeping. These will reduce the acid content in the stomach and help soothe a dry cough.

Cough drops and lozenges can help lubricate a sore throat and provide relief from irritating coughs. Lozenges are to be placed in the mouth and dissolved slowly. They work by accelerating the production of saliva, which when mixed with the ingredients, moistens the throat lining to reduce itchiness and cough.

Humidifiers increase moisture in the air. If you suffer from a dry throat, you can use a humidifier in your house to induce moist air to your lungs through your nose and throat. This will help soothe a sore throat and reduce persistent cough.

Cough suppressants and expectorants
Cough suppressants are used to treat a dry cough and work by controlling the cough reflex. Expectorants are effective in treating a productive cough and work by thinning out the mucus which makes it easier to cough up the phlegm. However, it is essential to read the instructions printed on the package label before taking the syrup. Ensure that you take the correct dosage, based on your age and medical condition.

Topical cough medicines
Various topical ointments contain camphor and menthol. Rubbing the ointment on the chest and throat can release strong vapours which can calm a cough and open up a blocked nose.  They are also available in a liquid form which can be used with vaporizers. 

Decongestants come in different forms such as pills, liquids and nasal sprays. This cough treatment works by reducing the swelling of the nasal tissue and lessens mucus production.  They open up the airways and reduce cough by drying up the mucus in the lungs.

It is recommended to get an appointment with a specialist if after obtaining cough treatment, you observe that there is no improvement in your condition. Call a specialist immediately if you notice that your cough is getting worse or you experience additional symptoms:

  • You get fever
  • You experience breathlessness
  • You cough up blood
  • You experience chest pain
  • You get pain in the sinus area
  • You get a rash
  • You experience unexpected weight loss

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