A cough is an important reflex that helps clear out the body’s airways. More specifically, it helps clear out the trachea and the bronchi, which are the tubes that carry air within the lungs. Coughing helps keep people from inhaling substances into the airways or lungs that could potentially cause problems.
Coughing is the body’s natural respiratory defense system. If an irritant enters the body, it sends a stimulus to various nerve endings. This interaction is then processed by your brain, and sends a signal in response, initiating a cough.
In mild cases, it is helpful to know effective home remedies for cough.
Types of cough
An acute cough can last for a few days or up to two weeks, as it can heal naturally. It is good to know effective home remedies for cough. But if symptoms persist for more than three weeks, it is best to consult your doctor as it may need serious medical attention.
Here’s all you need to know about the four types of cough:
When mucus is blocking the airways, causing breathing problems, a wet cough occurs. Known as a productive cough, it produces an unusual amount of phlegm or mucus.
A wet cough starts when viruses or bacteria cause infection in the respiratory system (such as the common cold or flu). Mucus production increases to keep the airway lining moist, as well as to protect the lungs from microbes. It also repels irritants to discourage infection.
When someone suffers from a wet cough, “expectoration” or sputum production would likely happen to trap the microbes in order to protect the lungs and airways.
If wet cough gets worse, or persists for more than 10 days, you may need to consult your physician. These can be caused by:
- Infection of the airways or lungs (e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia, or even tuberculosis)
- Lung conditions (like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD])
- Postnasal drip, (from colds, allergies, or sinus infections)
A dry cough is also called a non productive cough due to the absence of mucus or phlegm. Dry coughing can be triggered by air contaminants such as smoke and dust that can irritate the airways.
Dry coughs might go away on its own after a few days. If it does not get better within three weeks, you may be having an acute dry cough which usually comes with a cold. In the event that it worsens and lasts for more than eight weeks, it could be a chronic dry cough caused by smoking or asthma.
Dry cough may be caused by any of the following:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Asthma and allergies
- Nerve sensitivity
- Medicinal side effects, (especially blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors)
- Heart failure
- Lung cancer
A barky cough produces a tight low pitched barking sound, commonly described like how a barking seal sounds. It is caused by croup, a virus in the vocal cords and trachea that may cause swelling.
Younger children are most susceptible to croup because their airways are small, making it hard to breathe.
Whooping cough (pertussis)
Whooping cough is an infection caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria that causes a severe cough. It infiltrates the bronchi and bronchioles causing soreness and tightness in the airways, leading to shortness of breath and severe coughing.
Whooping cough is so named because people make a “whoop” sound when they breathe in after a coughing fit. It’s important to note, however, that not everyone with whooping cough makes this noise.
Whooping cough needs special medical assistance as it can spread from person to person if not treated right away. It usually starts with mild sneezing and colds, and later on, it progresses to a more severe cough and difficulty of breathing.
What triggers cough?
Coughing can be stimulated by different causes. Some of them are temporary while others are life-long. Knowing cough triggers is the first step for figuring out effective home remedies for cough.
Cough triggers include:
Viruses and bacteria
Respiratory tract infection, such as colds and the flu, is the most common cause of coughs. Some flu or cold viruses last a few days up to a week, but some tend to stay longer and may require medication. Remember to ask your doctor for antibiotics if symptoms persist.
Asthma and allergies
Inhaling particles that may trigger asthma and allergy may cause coughing. It is the way your body gets rid of whatever is inside your system to prevent further harm.
You may not be asthmatic or suffering from an allergy but inhaling certain things can make you cough such as, cigarette smoke or strong scents. A change of weather may also be an irritant.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Acid coming up the throat can irritate the air passages and therefore cause you to cough.
Having colds means excess mucus from your sinus drips down your throat that triggers coughing.
Treating cough is the best way to avoid making it worse. Treatments may vary according to cause.
Medication provided by your physician is most useful for curing illness, but when you’re at home, there are also ways on how to ease your coughing problem. Here are some effective home remedies for cough.
- Stay hydrated
- Stack pillows under your head when sleeping to avoid postnasal drips and GERD.
- Take over-the-counter cough medicine, or cough drops or hard candy.
- Gargle with warm salt water concoction or with oral antiseptic.
- Avoid cough triggers as much as possible.
- use a humidifier in your bedroom (usually if the cough is from a cold)
- Stop smoking, if you smoke
- Put honey and ginger in your tea
- Take vitamins regularly. These boost your immune system
- Visit your doctor regularly for early prevention. Some infections can be treated with antibiotic medicines. If an infection is caused by bacteria, your doctor will treat it with antibiotics. But if the infection is caused by the flu virus, a different medicine might be prescribed.
- Ask for prescribed antibiotics or any medications. Postnasal drip is treated with a different medicine that comes as a pill or nose spray.
- Asthma and COPD are usually treated with medicines that people breathe into their lungs (called inhalers)
- If your cough becomes too serious, do not hesitate to contact paramedics and inform them about the situation. If the cause of your cough is unclear, your doctor may prescribe medicine to make your cough less severe. But if your cough becomes too serious, call for help right away.
- Submit yourself to laboratory tests if prescribed by a doctor
Cough is a common ailment that people frequently catch. You must be aware of its underlying causes, so that you may know what action to perform. In mild cases, you may look into effective home remedies for cough.
Coughs may come lightly but in some cases become fatal. That is why, it’s always best to seek medical attention when needed.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.