Coughs are a common ailment that affects millions of people every year, and they can linger for several weeks or even months. A cough is your body’s natural defense mechanism to clear out irritants from your respiratory system. Although coughs are usually not serious, persistent coughing can lead to various health problems. Fortunately, there are various over-the-counter and natural remedies that can help to alleviate cough symptoms effectively. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of cough medicines, natural remedies, lifestyle changes, prevention methods and when to seek medical attention.
A Comprehensive Guide to Over-the-Counter Cough Medicines
Over-the-counter cough medicines come in different forms, including syrups, tablets, and lozenges, and they contain a range of active ingredients such as:
- Dextromethorphan: suppresses cough reflex
- Guaifenesin: thins mucus to make it easier to cough out
- Phenylephrine: decongestant to relieve congestion and headache
- Antihistamines: relieve allergy symptoms, including cough caused by allergies
The effectiveness of over-the-counter cough medications depends on the cause of the cough. For a dry, non-productive cough, a cough suppressant containing dextromethorphan is most effective, while a productive cough with chest congestion is best treated with expectorant medication containing guaifenesin. For a cough due to allergies, an antihistamine can help relieve the symptoms. It’s essential to check the label before taking medications to ensure you’re taking a medication that will work on your symptoms.
10 Natural Remedies for Cough
For those who prefer natural remedies, several remedies can help alleviate cough symptoms:
- Honey: contains antimicrobial properties that soothe the throat and suppress cough
- Ginger tea: anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties
- Garlic: antimicrobial properties and acts as an expectorant
- Steam therapy: inhaling steam can soothe throat irritation
- Turmeric: contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties
- Eucalyptus: helps to relieve cough and congestion
- Chicken soup: more studies are needed; however, the steam from the soup can provide relief
- Essential oils: peppermint, eucalyptus, and thyme can help to ease the symptoms
- Marshmallow root tea: contains a soothing agent for cough and sore throat
- Acupressure/acupuncture: applying pressure on specific acupuncture points helps to alleviate cough symptoms
The Risks of Prolonged Coughing and When to Seek Medical Attention
A cough is usually not a severe medical condition; persistent coughing can lead to complications such as fatigue, chest tightness, headaches, hoarseness, and sore throats. If the cough is accompanied by symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty in breathing, high fever, bloody mucus, or sudden weight loss, it’s time to seek medical attention. Such symptoms may indicate a more severe condition, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or tuberculosis.
Prescription Cough Medications: When and Why They Are Prescribed
Prescription cough medications are usually available only by prescription from a doctor, and they are usually stronger than over-the-counter medications. They may be necessary if you have severe or persistent cough symptoms. Some common prescription cough medications include:
- Opioids: to suppress cough reflex
- Corticosteroids: to reduce inflammation caused by cough
- Bronchodilators: to relax the airway muscles and improve breathing
- Antibiotics: to treat a cough caused by bacterial infections
It’s important to use these medications only as instructed by your healthcare provider as they may cause side effects and interact with other medications.
How Lifestyle Changes Can Help Ease a Cough
Several lifestyle changes can help to alleviate cough symptoms and make you feel better:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking fluids such as water and herbal tea can help thin out mucus and make it easier to cough out.
- Avoid irritants: Stay away from smoke, pollution, and other irritants that can aggravate your cough.
- Quit smoking: Smoking irritates the lungs and can make cough symptoms worse. Consider quitting smoking or avoiding exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Use a humidifier: Dry air can worsen cough symptoms. Using a humidifier can help moisten the air and soothe the throat.
- Elevate your head: Sleeping with your head slightly elevated can ease nighttime coughing.
The Best Methods for Cough Prevention
Preventing a cough involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria. Here are some ways to avoid getting a cough:
- Wash your hands frequently: soap and water for at least twenty seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Avoid touching your face: This helps to reduce the chance of infection.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick: this includes kissing, hugging, and shaking hands.
- Stay home if you are sick: this helps to prevent spreading the infection.
- Practice good health habits: eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and minimize stress levels.
Coughs are usually not a serious medical condition, but they can be frustrating and affect your daily activities. Over-the-counter medicines, natural remedies, and lifestyle changes can help alleviate cough symptoms and make you feel better. However, if you experience persistent coughing or have worsened symptoms, you should seek medical attention. By following the prevention methods and maintaining good health habits, you can help avoid getting a cough and improve your overall health.