As we go through the colds and flu season, many of us are experiencing cough and looking for ways to ease its symptoms. A cough is a reflex action, your body’s way of getting rid of mucus or irritants that are blocking your throat or airway. It can be irritating and uncomfortable and can be experienced on its own or as a common symptom of colds and flu. There are different types of cough and knowing which one you’re suffering from can make all the difference when it comes to treating it right.
Coughs can be divided into two groups – productive and unproductive coughs, depending on whether they produce excess mucus or phlegm or not. Different health conditions, such as colds and flu, lung or respiratory conditions or lungs irritation caused by smoke, can lead to a mucus build-up and chesty cough. It can also be referred to as a mucus cough and is associated with a feeling of lightness or heaviness on the chests. A chesty cough can come on slowly or quickly and may be accompanied by other symptoms, including runny nose, fatigue and more.
A dry cough is usually a result of an inflammation of the upper airwaves caused by dust, smoke, colds and flu or throat infection and no mucus is produced while coughing. A tickly cough is an unproductive cough as well, but you may feel a tickling sensation that’s most often caused by an irritation in the throat.
Cough medicine can help you cough up the extra mucus of a chesty cough when you have an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) or to suppress a dry cough. You can find cough medicines for a chesty cough and a dry cough and choose from a wide range of treatments available from liquids, syrups to capsules, tablets and more.
What Are the Different Cough Medicines?
Cough medicines work in different ways, depending on the active ingredient they contain. The two different types of cough medications are suppressants and expectorants. Cough suppressants, also known as antitussives, are most often used for a dry cough. They can reduce the cough reflex by suppressing the part of your brain that makes you feel like coughing. They act to relieve cough but don’t treat the cause of it or speed up the recovery. It’s not advised to use them for treating cough caused by smoking or long-term bronchial issues.
Expectorants are usually prescribed for a wet, or so-called productive cough. They act by thinning the mucus in the air passages and make it easier for you to cough it up and clear your airways. Sometimes, cough medications can be combined with antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers and used for treating a range of symptoms such as cough, cold congestion and body aches.
Antihistamines are anti-allergy medicines and usually can help if your cough is caused by allergies that affect your nose and throat. They’re blocking the release of histamines, which are produced by your body as a reaction to allergens. Keep in mind that antihistamines can help only with allergic reactions, such as cough, sneezing and watery eyes, but not with the allergy itself.
Decongestants are commonly used to clear a stuffy nose and treat a cough caused by the mucus dripping back in your throat. They can only be used to clean up the airways when your nose is blocked or if your cough is caused by a post-nasal drip, so they can help you sleep more comfortably.
Your pharmacist or physician can advise you which one may be suitable for both you or your child. Make sure to describe when and why your cough occurs, whether at night, after eating or while exercising, how does it sound and feel, how long it lasts and are there any other symptoms related to it, such as vomiting, urinary incontinence, sleeplessness or more. All this information can help your doctor or pharmacist advice the right treatment. Keep in mind that for buying some of these you may need a prescription.
How to Choose Cough Medicines
Never forget to check with your pharmacist or physician before buying any medicine from the chemist to make sure they’re safe to take with any other medicines you may be taking if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, always read the label of your cough medicine carefully to know how much you should take and how often. Check any warnings about side effects, sleepiness, driving and alcohol intake.
Only use a cough medication that matches your symptoms and don’t exceed the recommended dose. If your symptoms worsen or have not improved after a few days, or if your cough lasts longer than two weeks, or keeps coming back, it’s important to consult your doctor and follow their advice and recommendations.
Alternative options for treating cold or cough include plenty of rest and fluids, using a vaporiser with a few drops of essential oils, chest rub and more. Essential oils must not be swallowed and have to be used as advised by your aromatherapist or physician.
Living in the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re aware that dry cough is one of the most common symptoms of the coronavirus. Other symptoms include fever and shortness of breath, so if you’re feeling sick, it’s recommendable to stay at home and avoid public places, separate yourself from all family members, cover your coughs and sneezes and wear a mask whenever you’re around people. Monitor your symptoms and make sure to stay in touch with your doctor.