Blog written by: Dhrithi Bhat
Tired of that persistent cough that seems to linger no matter what you do? When a cough becomes more than just a passing annoyance, it's time to dig deeper and uncover the underlying causes.
Our everyday activities and general well-being might be negatively affected by the irritating and crippling condition of persistent coughing. While the occasional cough is a typical defence mechanism to open the airways, a protracted and persistent cough may be a sign of a serious health problem.
What causes a persistent cough?
- Respiratory Infections: Persistent coughing might be brought on by the common cold, the flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia. These illnesses frequently result in mucus production that is excessive and airway irritation, both of which prolong coughing fits.
- Asthma: Among the most noticeable symptoms of asthma, people may have a chronic cough. Exercise, environmental factors, and allergens can set off an asthma attack, which results in shortness of breath, wheezing, and a persistent cough.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Inflammation of the throat and a persistent cough might result from stomach acid draining back into the oesophagus. The GERD disease frequently gets worse at night or right after eating.
- Postnasal Drip: Excessive mucus production due to allergies, sinus infections, or nasal congestion can drip down the throat, leading to an ongoing cough.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Shortness of breath, a chronic cough, and recurrent respiratory infections are common symptoms of this progressive lung illness, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Remedies and Lifestyle Changes:
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids helps thin the mucus and soothe the throat, reducing coughing. Water, herbal teas, and warm broths are excellent choices.
- Honey and Warm Lemon Water: Mix honey with warm water or add it to herbal teas to relieve cough symptoms. Lemon has antibacterial properties and can help soothe the throat.
- Steam Inhalation: Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water or using a humidifier adds moisture to the airways, easing coughing and reducing throat irritation.
- Avoid Irritants: Avoid things that can aggravate coughing, such as smoke, potent perfumes, and other irritants. It's definitely advisable to stop smoking if you do.
- Elevate Your Head: Using an extra pillow or raising the head of your bed can prevent postnasal drip, reducing coughing at night.
- Over-the-Counter Medications: Antihistamines, expectorants, and cough suppressants can all temporarily relieve cough symptoms. However, get medical advice before using any drug.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
While many persistent coughs are benign and self-limiting, some may require medical intervention. Here are a few signs that indicate it's time to consult a healthcare professional:
- Coughing up blood or thick, discoloured mucus.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
- Chest pain or tightness.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Night sweats or fever.
- If a cough lasts longer than eight weeks.
A healthcare provider will conduct a thorough evaluation, considering your medical history, performing physical examinations, and ordering relevant tests to determine the underlying cause of your persistent cough. Treatment options may include prescription medications, inhalers, allergy management, or lifestyle modifications tailored to your specific condition.
- National Health Service UK. (2021). Cough. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cough/
- American Lung Association. (a.n.d.). Chronic Cough. Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/chronic-cough
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Chronic cough. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/cough/basics/causes/sym-20050846
- British Lung Foundation. (a.n.d.). COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Retrieved from https://www.asthmaandlung.org.uk/conditions/copd-chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease