A cough is an important reflex action, which the body undertakes to get rid of substances that are irritating the air passages. A cough is usually initiated to clear a buildup of phlegm in the trachea, by forceful expulsion of air at high speed away from the body. You can choose to cough (a voluntary process), or our body may cough on its own (an involuntary process).
Coughs can be of 2 types – acute and chronic. An acute cough is one that begins suddenly and is present for less than 3 weeks. They can be infectious (common cold, sinus, pneumonia), or non-infectious (asthma, bronchitis). Chronic coughs are present for more than 3 weeks.
Some common causes of coughs
The cause of a cough is usually based on where it is originating from. However, the most common triggers of a cough include –
1) Allergies or asthma, chronic bronchitis
2) Common upper respiratory tract infections, resulting from the secretions of the nose and sinuses draining into the throat, such as in cases of sinus infections, chronic postnasal drip, diseases of the external ear, infections of the throat
3) Exposure to environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke, dust, pollen, pet dander, industrial chemicals.
4) Smoking as well as exposure to second hand smoke.
5) Side-effects of certain medications
6) Chronic fluid build-up in the lungs.
7) Blockage of the airway due to an inhaled object such as food.
8) Gastroesophageal reflux is also a very common cause of coughs. This occurs when acid from the stomach travels up the esophagus, resulting in the reflex production of a cough. This is often associated with a sensation of heartburn; and worsens during the day or when one lies flat on the back.
Symptoms of cough –
The symptoms of a chronic cough can be hard to assess, because many causes of chronic cough have overlapping signs and symptoms. In fact, a cough is an annoying symptom that can have many causes.
However, some common cough symptoms include:
1) Shortness of breath, as well as coughing up pink, frothy mucus – maybe the cause is fluid retention in lungs
2) Cough produces clear pale yellow mucus – due to viral infection, such as cold
3) Cough produces yellow or greenish mucus – cause may be chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.
4) If a cough is associated with wheezing and shortness of breath – reason could be asthma.
5) Fever, chills and night sweats along with chest pain when you cough – the cause may be tuberculosis
6) If lung cancer or a cancer of the air passages is present, one may cough up blood. Other symptoms that may point towards a cancer include increasing fatigue, loss of appetite, unexplained loss of weight, or decreased ability to swallow solid or liquid foods.
Coughs can be treated with cough medications. Dry coughs are treated with cough suppressants that reduce the urge to cough, while productive coughs (coughs that produce phlegm) are treated with expectorants that loosen mucus from the respiratory tract.
Antihistamines and decongestants are a good choice for treating coughs associated with post nasal drip.
If some underlying disease is causing the cough, treatment should first be based on treating the underlying disease.
A recent study indicates that, because of the presence of theobromine in chocolate, a bar of dark chocolate may be an effective treatment for a persistent cough.
Gargling with salt and warm water is also very helpful by cutting phlegm and reducing inflammation. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon table salt in 1/2 cup warm water, and gargle every three to four hours.
Some Useful Home Remedies for Coughs
Symptoms of coughs usually subside on their own with 7-10 days. However, lot of simple home remedies are there which provide relief from the discomfort associated with it.
1) Take three peppercorns, and add a pinch of black cumin seeds and rock salt and consume it.
2) Drink hot milk with honey at bedtime for cough relief.
3) Make a decoction by boiling 50 grams fresh ginger with 5 tablespoon sugar in 2 glasses water for 30 minutes. Drink it hot, twice a day, in one day as this is a very effective Home Remedy for Cough.
4) Mix powdered cinnamon, lemon juice and honey. Take two teaspoon twice daily.
5) In one cup of warm milk, add a pinch of turmeric powder (Haldi) and drink twice a day.
6) Mix half a teaspoon of tulsi juice with half a teaspoon of ginger juice. Add 1 teaspoon of honey. Take this mixture 2-3 times a day. This is also useful Home Remedy for Cough
7) Prepare a mixture by adding 1/2 teaspoon honey with 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice and take it every 12 hours. Honey relieves the itchiness by moistening the throat passage.
8) Mix 8 – 10 tablespoons of coconut milk with 1 tablespoon poppy seed (powdered) and 1 tablespoon of pure honey. Take this every night before going to bed. This remedy is very good Home Remedy for Coughs.
9) Garlic-onion-chicken soup is an effective remedy for cough. Take it steaming hot, to give relief to irritation in throat.