20th Jan, 2023
Cough can be triggered by multiple factors - seasonal changes, allergy triggers, pollution, and what not! No matter what the cause or trigger, all types of coughs can cause extreme discomfort, and even put a wrench on your day-to-day activities, though it is harmless in most cases.
A cough is a natural reflex and your body’s way of removing foreign irritants and germs your airways. An occasional cough is normal and is also deemed healthy, as your body expels allergens and foreign particles from the lungs. However, if the cough persists for a long time and brings up bloody or discoloured mucus, it may require medical attention and treatment. Persistent coughing can also lead to other conditions such as nausea, sleeplessness, dizziness, headaches, and extreme fatigue.
However, in most cases, cough can be treated through simple home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Before we learn about the various natural remedies for cough, let us take a look at different types, and causes of cough.
Types of Coughs:
Cough can be classified into different types, based on factors such as:
Whether expel mucus while coughing:
Dry Cough: This cough is also known as non-productive cough. A dry cough produces no mucus or phlegm. This type of cough can be caused by different factors such as allergies, viral infections, or environmental irritants.
Wet Cough: This cough is also known as productive cough. In case of a wet cough, one tends to cough up mucus or phlegm. Wet cough is often associated with respiratory tract infections such as the common cold or the flu.
How persistent or long-lasting it is:
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.
Causes of Cough:
Cough can be caused due to various reasons. Let us take a look at some of the common causes of cough.
Allergies: Allergies can cause cough due to the inflammation and irritation of the airways.
Respiratory Infections: The most common cause of cough is respiratory infections such as the common cold, flu, pneumonia, and bronchitis.
Environmental Irritants: Exposure to environmental irritants such as smoke, dust, and pollution can cause cough.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Certain health conditions such as GERD can also cause cough due to the stomach acid irritating the airways.
Several other factors and health conditions such as sinusitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), COVID-19, cystic fibrosis, laryngitis, and lung cancer can also result in cough. It is important to seek medical attention if your cough doesn’t go away within a week to 10 days. You must also contact your healthcare provider if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, breathlessness, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
Treating Cough Effectively
As mentioned earlier, though coughing is a natural reflex that helps clear your throat and airways from irritants, it can be quite uncomfortable and troublesome. Cough usually gets cured on its own, or after the root cause has been addressed. While there are several medications that can help treat cough, you can also turn to natural remedies for relief. Some of the most popular natural cough remedies are:
Honey: Honey is one of the most popular natural remedies for cough. It supresses the cough reflex and provides a soothing sensation to the throat. Honey also has natural antibacterial properties and can soothe a sore throat. You can add a spoonful of honey to hot water or tea, or take a spoon or 2 of honey as it is.
Ginger: Ginger, along with honey, is a much sought-after cold remedy. Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help ease cough and soothe the throat by thinning the mucus. You can add fresh ginger to hot water or tea, or take ginger-infused cough drops.
Garlic: Garlic has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can combat coughs and colds. Garlic can be added to your meals or taken raw as per your comfort. You can also take garlic capsules or cough drops for relief.
Turmeric: Another Ayurvedic remedy that helps effectively cure cold and cough symptoms, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease cough and sore throat. You can add turmeric to hot water or milk.
Saltwater gargle: Gargling with warm saltwater can help soothe a sore throat and relieve other cold symptoms. To make a saltwater gargle, mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water until it dissolves. Gargle for 30 seconds before spitting it out.
Steam: Inhaling steam can help loosen mucus for easy drainage, thus relieving cough. You can also take a hot shower or breathe in steam from a pot of hot water with a towel over your head.
Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin mucus and make coughing more productive, especially sipping on warm fluids. Drinking fluids can also help relieve dryness in the throat and keep you hydrated. Warm fluids also provide a soothing sensation to the irritated throat.
However, when natural remedies prove to be ineffective in treating your cough, you can turn to over-the-counter medicines such as cough syrups, cough drops, or lozenges for relief. There are different cough medicines depending on the type of cough you have. If you have a non-productive cough, you can turn to dry cough syrups such as suppressants, that work by blocking the cough reflex. The best cough syrup for productive cough is expectorants. These are wet cough syrups that help thin mucus for quick drainage, thus providing instant relief from cough.
It's important to note that natural remedies may not work for everyone. Severe coughs may require medical attention. If your cough persists for more than a few days or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, consult a healthcare professional for other treatment methods.