Your cough has a purpose – to protect you by clearing your airways from irritants and prevent infection. Coughing is a reflex and can be brought on by cold air, strong perfume, smoke, mucus, allergens (mold, dust, pollen), and inhaled food or dirt. The nerve endings in your airway are stimulated sending a message to your brain telling the muscles in your chest and abdomen to push air out of your lungs forcing out the irritant. Medical conditions and medicines are also reasons for coughing.
Acute coughs, come on suddenly and last only a few weeks, are commonly brought on by colds, viruses, sinus infections, pneumonia, and acute bronchitis. Coughs lasting three to eight weeks and remain even after the initial cold or respiratory infection are known as subacute coughs. A dry cough can occur at times as a result of a cold, coughing irritates your lungs leading to more coughing, and can last weeks or months.
If your cough is chronic, lasting more than eight weeks, seek out your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. Chronic coughing can be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), postnasal drip from sinus infections or allergies, chronic lung conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cigarette smoke, pollutants, and some medications.
There are many remedies and treatments for your cough from medications, lifestyle, nutrition and dietary supplements, to herbs and homeopathy.
Here are a few that are commonly recommended:
- Over-the-counter cough suppressants and expectorants – read labels and check with your pediatrician to determine what is best for your child’s cough.
- Water helps to ease your cough and thin the mucus in your throat – drink more water, watered down juices or tea, or add it to the air with a steamy shower or vaporizer.
- Remove allergens by using air conditioners to filter air during pollen season.
- Take a teaspoon of honey or add a spoonful of honey to hot water or tea – this can help loosen a cough. Remember DO NOT give children younger than one year old honey because this can make them sick.
- Stop smoking and stay away from second hand cigarette smoke.
- Give it time because sometimes it just takes time to get over a cough that follows a common virus.
The next time you find yourself coughing remember coughing has a purpose. It protects you – either from irritants or to let you know something more maybe going on.
Written By: Candace J. Heer, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Morrow County
Reviewed By: Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Hardin County