Coughing is a reflex that occurs when the throat tries to get rid of foreign irritants or mucus. However, a number of conditions can trigger bouts of coughing. A cough generally lasts or improves within two weeks. Medications to stop cough are prescribed. However, how to stop coughing using home remedies? Here are just a few ways plus learn the causes of cough and the methods to prevent it.
Types of Cough
1. Acute Cough
If a cough continues for more than two weeks, then it is known as an acute cough.
2. Subacute Cough
Coughing that lasts three to eight weeks but improves within that same timeframe is called subacute cough.
3. Chronic Cough
This type of cough lasts more than eight weeks.
Causes of Cough
Several factors cause cough. Some of these conditions may be permanent or temporary.
1. Clearing Airways
As mentioned, coughing is a reflex action that aims to clear the airways. Foreign irritants or mucus may clog the throat. Coughing helps clear the irritants to make breathing easy.
2. Bacteria or Virus
Coughing is also brought about by an infection of the respiratory tract like flu or colds. Virus or bacteria may cause infections in the respiratory tract and may require medications.
Smokers are usually affected by coughing and is called “smoker’s cough.” The sound is distinctive, and the cough is chronic.
In young children, coughing is caused by asthma. Moreover, the type of coughing involved is easily identified due to its distinctive cough sound which is wheezing. This cause of cough is usually treated with an inhaler.
Most prescription medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors carry a side effect which is coughing. Brands that commonly cause this side effect include Vasotec and Zestril. Coughing usually goes away as soon as the medicine is discontinued.
6. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Also called GERD, this condition causes chronic cough. GERD happens when stomach contents head back to the esophagus. The backflow triggers tracheal reflux which causes an individual to cough.
7. Other Conditions
Further conditions that may trigger a cough are the following.
- Postnasal Drip
- Vocal Cord Damage
- Severe Conditions Like Heart Failure and Pulmonary Embolism
When to See a Doctor?
Coughing is harmless, primarily if the cause of the cough is easily identified and avoided. However, for coughing that fails to get better after a week, it may be time to seek medical attention. If the following symptoms accompany coughing, then it is best to consult with a licensed physician.
- Chest Pain
- Constant Heartburn
- Coughing Up Blood
- Night Sweats
- Trouble Sleeping or Breathing
Medical attention is provided after a doctor listens to the lungs, inspects the throat, and asks about an individual’s symptoms. For coughs caused by a bacterial infection, oral antibiotics are prescribed which are consumed for a week. Expectorants or suppressants may also be prescribed.
For coughs where the cause cannot be easily identified, further tests are required. This includes an x-ray of the chest to check if the lungs are clear. Skin and blood tests are also done if an allergy is suspected. Mucus or phlegm is also analyzed for tuberculosis or other bacteria.
On the other hand, some coughs may be a symptom of a heart problem, though rare. An echocardiogram is recommended to check proper heart functions. Other cases require further testing such as a CT scan. If a CT scan fails to show the reason for coughing, then the doctor would refer an individual to a pulmonary or gastrointestinal specialist. One of the tests involved is esophageal pH monitoring. This test looks for signs of GERD.
Coughing is an automatic response by the body to rid the airways of irritants. However, it can be prevented with the following methods.
Smoking causes chronic cough. Stopping oneself from smoking can prove to be a challenge which is why there are support groups to aid an individual in this area. Moreover, there are other methods of smoking that do not use tobacco like electronic cigarettes or vapes.
Change in Diet
According to a study by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, food that is rich in flavonoids and fiber can likely prevent the occurrence of cough. For individuals who need help in changing their diet, ask a doctor for referrals to a dietician.
Practice Proper Hygiene
Wash hands properly and regularly, especially after getting in contact with individuals who are sick from flu or cough. If water and soap are unavailable, then use a sanitizer that contains alcohol. Also, make it a habit to disinfect items used by sick family members such as beddings, toys, towels, and utensils.
Maintain Healthy Habits
Stay well hydrated by drinking the needed amount of water in a day. Also, avoid sugary and cold beverages. Get enough sleep in a day, around seven to nine hours. This keeps the body working in tip-top shape. Consider consuming immune-boosting supplements like vitamin C and zinc.
Cough can easily be remedied at home with a few methods. Here are just some of them.
Ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties that ease a cough. Moreover, it helps relieve pain and nausea. Studies claim that the compounds contained in ginger relax the membranes in the lungs and throat which reduces coughing.
Brew around 20 to 40 grams of sliced ginger. Steep before drinking. One may also add lemon juice or honey. Take note, however, that ginger tea may cause side effects such as heartburn and stomach upset.
2. Honey Tea
Research suggests that honey helps alleviate cough. To prepare, mix approximately two teaspoons of honey in an herbal tea or warm water. The mixture should be consumed two times a day. However, this concoction should not be given to children under 1-year-old.
Cough that produces phlegm or mucus is known as a wet cough. This type of cough may be alleviated with the help of steam. When taking a hot bath or shower, stay in the area filled with steam for around five to ten minutes. Make sure to drink water right after to avoid dehydration.
In the event that a hot shower is unavailable, a steam bowl will suffice. Fill a big bowl with warm water. Essential oils or herbs may be added to get rid of decongestion. With a towel placed over the head, lean over the bowl and inhale the steam for at least five to ten minutes. Discontinue if the steam starts to feel uncomfortable on the skin.
Studies have shown that staying well hydrated helps alleviate coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose. Warm drinks can better help relieve symptoms such as fatigue and sore throat as compared to cold drinks. Such drinks that are recommended for coughing include the following.
- Clear Broth
- Decaffeinated Black Tea
- Herbal Tea
- Warm Fruit Juice or Water
5. Salt-Water Gargle
One of the most useful and simplest remedies is a salt-water gargle. This method helps treat wet cough and sore throat. To do this, mix one-half teaspoon of salt in a cup of hot water. Cool the solution prior to using it. Hold the mixture at the back of the throat before gargling and spitting it. Do this three to five times a day until the coughing subsides and improves.