GENERAL COUGH ADVICE: TYPES OF COUGH, CAUSES & TREATMENTS
There are lots of different types of coughs, with different causes and remedies for each, so it’s important to ID your cough correctly. Whether your cough is chesty, dry or tickly, find out exactly what to do, suitable remedies, and recommended treatments to help stop your cough in its tracks. Fight back with Covonia.
WHAT IS A COUGH?
A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus or irritants like dust, microbes or smoke. If your breathing passages become blocked, your nervous system sends an alert to your brain. Your brain responds by telling the muscles in your chest and abdomen to contract and expel a burst of air (a cough) to attempt to clear it. This is built into your nervous system, just like sneezing or yawning.
WHAT CAUSES A COUGH?
Most coughs are caused by colds and flu and clear up on their own within a few weeks. However, sometimes they are a symptom of a more serious illness, like lung inflammation, so it’s important to keep an eye on your symptoms. If they don’t clear up within a couple of weeks, speak to a medical professional, like your GP.
TYPES OF COUGHS AND SYMPTOMS
There are several different types of cough; the two main types that are caused by colds and flu, are ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ coughs. A cough that gets rid of mucus or phlegm from your airways is called a wet or productive cough as it serves a purpose, whereas a cough that doesn’t produce mucus is called a dry or unproductive cough. These are the most common coughs and their symptoms:
- Chesty coughs – can be productive or unproductive, caused by congestion in your lungs
- Dry coughs – happens when your airways or upper throat become inflamed or irritated, often causing a sore throat
- Tickly coughs – an unproductive cough caused when your airways or upper throat become inflamed or irritated
COUGH TREATMENTS: HOW TO GET RELIEF FROM A COUGH
While there’s no single, one-size-fits-all way to treat a cough, there are a number of treatments you can try to ease symptoms and help you feel fighting fit. Keep reading for more advice on how to stop a cough immediately:
- Get plenty of rest – give your body what it needs and rest, preferably in a room with good ventilation to help clear your airways
- Practice good hygiene – wash your hands with soap frequently, use tissues then throw them away, and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of germs
- Drink plenty of fluids – water and juices can help dilute mucus for easy expulsion. Aim for six-eight glasses a day
- Drink hot drinks – these can help soothe a tickly cough or sore throat. We recommend hot water, honey and lemon
- Eat frequent light and small meals – this will reduce the risk of vomiting through prolonged coughing
- Use steam inhalation – this can effectively loosen mucus and phlegm if you have it, and help relieve a heavy chest
WHAT TO AVOID IF YOU HAVE A COUGH
There are also some things that you should avoid, as they can exacerbate symptoms and delay your recovery. These include:
- Smoking or going into excessively dusty areas – these can trigger coughing bouts
- Drinking lots of alcohol – this causes dehydration which can worsen symptoms
- Working in areas with noxious fumes or polluted air – this can further irritate your airways and trigger coughing fits
- Closing your windows – fresh air is good for your immune system and can do wonders to open your airways
- Antibiotics – as coughs are usually caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t work
WHEN TO SEE YOUR GP
When you need some extra help to diagnose or treat your cough, make sure you visit your GP if any of the following apply:
- There are signs of infection – green, yellow or 'rusty' phlegm
- Blood is present in the mucus
- You are wheezing
- Coughing is associated with chest pain
- You have whooping cough or croup
- You have recurrent night-time coughing
- The cough has lasted for more than three weeks
- There is any shortness of breath or severe pain when inhaling
- You have any recent, unexplained weight loss which accompanies a cough