16th Jan, 2023
Cough is one of the most common health conditions among people across the globe, and all of us have been affected by it at some point in life. In some cases, cough can be triggered by an infection or allergy, while in other cases, cough can be an indication of an underlying health condition. Coughing can also result in the spread of infections from one person to another, which is why it is important to treat it through effective remedies and medications.
What is cough?
Cough is a reflex action that helps to clear your airways of irritants, mucus, and other foreign particles. It is a common symptom of various respiratory tract infections and can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.
A cough is your body’s response to an irritant or foreign particles in the airways, as the lungs try to force the particles out. An occasional cough is normal and it usually goes away on its own. But, if the cough persists for a longer period of time or you cough up discoloured mucus, it may require medical attention. In some cases, coughing can be quite forceful and hurt the throat. If forceful cough persists, it can lead to fatigue, sleeplessness, dizziness, headache, and nausea in some cases.
Types of Coughs:
Cough can be classified into different types, depending on -
How long the cough lasts:
Acute Cough: Acute cough lasts for less than 3 weeks and often goes away on its own. It can also be treated with simple home remedies and OTC medications.
Chronic Cough: A chronic cough lasts for more than 8 weeks and can be caused by underlying medical conditions such as asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or chronic bronchitis. This type of cough may be severe and require medical attention.
Whether it produces phlegm/mucus:
Dry Cough: Also known as non-productive cough, a dry cough produces no mucus or phlegm and can be caused by various factors such as allergies, viral infections, or environmental irritants.
Wet Cough: Also known as productive cough, a wet cough produces mucus or phlegm and is often associated with respiratory infections such as the common cold or the flu.
Causes of Cough:
Respiratory Infections: The most common cause of cough is respiratory infections such as the common cold, flu, pneumonia, and bronchitis.
Allergies: Allergies can cause cough due to the inflammation and irritation of the airways.
Asthma: Asthma can cause cough due to the inflammation and narrowing of the airways.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): GERD can cause cough due to the stomach acid irritating the airways.
Environmental Irritants: Exposure to environmental irritants such as smoke, dust, and pollution can cause cough.
Cough can also be caused due to other health conditions such as sinusitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), COVID-19, cystic fibrosis, laryngitis, lung cancer, and more. Seek medical attention if your cough doesn’t go away within a week to 10 days, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, breathlessness, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
Symptoms of Cough:
Depending on the root cause of the cough, the symptoms may differ. However, some of the most common signs and symptoms of cough and infection include:
Cough usually goes away on its own. In some cases, relief can be obtained after the root cause is treated. The symptoms of cough can also be treated through home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. However, if the cough leads to other symptoms such as sore throat or sleeplessness, you may have to seek medical attention. Let us take a look at a few remedies that can help relieve cough.
Rest and hydration: Resting and staying hydrated can help to relieve cough symptoms.
Over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter medications such as cough syrups - suppressants, expectorants, and decongestants can target different types of coughs and treat symptoms to provide relief. You can choose the best cough syrup or other cough medicine for you based on your symptoms.
Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial infections such as pneumonia or strep throat.
Lifestyle changes: Avoiding triggers such as smoke, dust, and pollution can help to relieve cough symptoms. The doctor may also suggest allergy tests to diagnose your triggers for effective treatment.
Medical treatment: Underlying medical conditions such as GERD and chronic bronchitis may require medical treatment. Once the underlying cause is addressed, the cough symptoms can be treated.
Home Remedies: Natural remedies such as ginger and honey can help soothe your throat and ease discomfort, while helping you expel the mucus. These ingredients can be added to hot beverages such as tea or milk.
Choosing the right cough medicine:
Cough medicines can help relieve coughing and other associated symptoms, such as sore throat and congestion. However, with so many options available in the market, it can be challenging to choose the best cough medicine for you.
Identify the type of cough: There are two main types of coughs – dry cough and wet cough. Dry coughs are usually caused by viral infections and allergies, and produce no phlegm or mucus. Wet coughs are also known as productive cough and produce phlegm or mucus. Dry cough can be treated with dry cough syrups and medicines such as suppressants that work by blocking or suppressing the cough reflex, thus providing instant relief from cough. Wet cough can be treated through wet cough syrups such as expectorants that help thin the mucus for easy drainage.
Consider your symptoms: Certain cough medicines not only treat cough but also target specific symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, you can look for cough medicines that can provide further relief. For example, if you have a sore throat, look for sore throat relief medicines that contain numbing agents like benzocaine or menthol.
Check the active ingredients: When choosing a cough medicine, make sure to read the label carefully and check the active ingredients. Some cough medicines contain multiple active ingredients, which can increase the risk of side effects. If you're not sure about a particular ingredient, talk to your healthcare provider to find out if the medicine will work for you.
Follow the instructions: When taking cough medicine, it's essential to follow the instructions carefully. Taking too much of a cough medicine can cause side effects, while taking too little may not provide enough relief. If the instructions are unclear, you can talk to your doctor or the pharmacist.