Coughing is the body’s natural reaction to remove substances from the throat and lungs. There are several types of coughs; Productive cough are wet and produce sputum or mucus which is coughed up. There is a dry cough which does not produce any mucus or sputum. Coughs can also be acute which come on quickly and go away quickly and chronic coughs which may last a few weeks or longer.
Everyone will experience a cough at some point in their lives since there are so many causes for a cough. An acute cough (one that comes on quickly) is usually caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory. This is a reaction to the draining of mucus into the throat from the nose and sinuses.
A dry cough will last for a few days to a few weeks. This is usually a reaction after a viral infection and is like a tickling cough in the throat.
A chronic cough is a persisting cough that can have many causes from underlying diseases. A chronic cough can be a symptom of allergies, asthma, cystic fibrosis, GERD and even chronic post nasal drip. Other causes of a chronic cough include smoking and other lung irritants.
Medications like ACE inhibitors can also cause a cough as a side effect.
Since a cough is a symptom itself of an underlying illness or condition it is important to pay attention to the type of cough you are experiencing. If the cough is wet and contains mucus you should pay attention to the color of the mucus and its thickness.
Over the Counter Treatments
There are many over the counter medications to relieve a cough. Doctors no longer suggest the use of these medications for children under the age of 6 years. Cough suppressants can be used for dry, hacking coughs. Expectorants can be used to help break up thick mucus allowing it to be more easily coughed up. Decongestants are good to treat nasal drips which will dry up the mucus and relieve the cough. If the cough is producing mucus and it is being coughed up no medication should be taken.
Alternative Cough Treatments
Alternative treatments maybe the best options for treating a cough. These treatments usually do not have side effects and are less harsh on the body’s system. An alternative treatment is the only suggested treatment for a cough for children under the age of 6 years. Drinking plenty of fluids will help thin mucus and relieve coughing. Drinking warm liquids can be very beneficial for those with a dry tickling cough. Using a vaporizer or a steamy shower will moisten the air soothing a dry throat from coughing. It can also help relieve a cough and make breathing easier. The use of cough drops or even a hard piece of candy can also help relieve a cough.
You should seek medical treatment if you are having trouble breathing or if you have trouble swallowing. These are signs of a very serious medical condition and immediate medical attention is needed.
Contact your family doctor if you have any of the following symptoms associated with a cough:
- Cough that has blood in it
- Cough lasting more than 10-14 days
- Infants younger than 3 months with a cough
- Thick yellowish-green phlegm
- A cough that worsens when you lie down especially if you have a history of blood clots or heart disease
- A high pitch sound when breathing in
- Violent cough that begins suddenly
Medical treatment for a cough really revolves around the underlying condition. Your doctor will treat the underlying condition which will then relieve the cough. The cough can also be treated with medications over the counter or by prescriptions. A doctor may prescribe a cough suppressant or expectorant to help relieve the symptoms of the cough.