5 Self-Care Best Practices When You’re Suffering From a Cough


You’re up all night.

You’re exhausted during the day.

You’ve had enough of this bothersome bark that has plagued you for days now.

How can you get rid of this tough cough?

Cough it out

Coughing is the body’s natural mechanism for clearing up the air passageways. When you are exposed to respiratory irritants, coughing is a reflex action that aims to unblock or free the airways so you can breathe more comfortably.

A cough or two a day is not a cause for concern. However, if a cough lasts for a prolonged period of time, then your body might be trying to tell you something.

Which type of cough do you have?


To know how to take care of this annoying ailment, you need to find out the root cause of your cough.

Some coughs can be short-term and may be caused by the following:

  • Allergy: It can be allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
  • Flare-ups: It can be a recurrence of a long-term condition such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Lower respiratory tract infection: Examples of this are bronchitis or pneumonia.
  • Upper respiratory tract infection: Infection that affects the throat, windpipe, or sinuses. Examples include colds, flu, laryngitis, sinusitis, or whooping cough.

Coughs can also afflict you for a longer period of time.

The following conditions may cause persistent cough:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis: A condition where the lung airways are abnormally widened
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): When acid from the stomach goes up to the throat and irritates it, it leads a person to cough
  • Post-nasal drip: Rhinitis or sinusitis can cause mucus to drip down from behind the nose to the throat
  • Medications such as an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor used to control blood pressure
  • Smoking

There are other less common causes that can lead a person to cough. It can be because of aspiration, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, or lung cancer.

It is best not to jump into conclusions, however.

The best course of action is to consult a doctor for coughs that are persistent, or last for more than four weeks in children and eight weeks in adults.

Are coughs contagious?

Since coughs are a reflexive action of the body, the cough itself may not be considered contagious. Rather, it is the cause of the cough that must be taken into account.

If either a bacteria or a virus is causing the cough, then preventive measures should be observed to stop spreading the infection.

Remember that coughing is a way to unblock an obstructed airway or clear the air passages of any irritants. It can then be viewed as a vehicle for the infection to be spread to other people as well.

In a joint study conducted in 2017 by the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland, it was found that common disease-causing bacteria can be spread through coughing and sneezing from as far as four meters away. The released pathogens can also stay active for 45 minutes.

Do you have a wet or dry cough?

Coughs can be considered dry or wet.

Dry coughs are usually not accompanied by phlegm. It is often associated with a tickle at the back of the throat and is usually irritating.

On the other hand, wet or chesty coughs expel excess phlegm. Exposure to irritants or infection can lead the body to produce excess mucus that clogs up the airways. Common chesty cough symptoms can cause any or all of the following:

  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Congested feeling so the chest feels tight or heavy.
  • Cough is usually more pronounced in the mornings.
  • Sticky mucus is produced. Sputum may also be colored green, brown, or white depending on the cause of the cough. It can also be white, sticky phlegm.
  • A rattling sound can be heard especially when breathing in or coughing.

How do you deal with the cough?

Coughing can be especially wearisome. You would want to be rid of it at the soonest possible time so you can go back to your cough-free daily life.

Doctors may prescribe expectorants to help loosen the mucus, clear your airways, and prevent the production of new phlegm.

These types of medicine may come in the form of 24-hour capsules, convenient tablets, or cough syrup. Aside from fast and effective cough and cold medicine specially formulated to relieve you from problematic coughs, you can also do some things that will help alleviate your suffering.

Here are five ways by which you can practice self-care when you’re down with the cough:

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Water is your best friend when you have a cough. Drink plenty of it to prevent yourself from dehydration. It will also reduce the cough reflex and help thin out the mucus.

Drinking water will also make it easier for you to cough out the phlegm. Have a glass on your bedside table so you can sip on it anytime and thwart a coughing fit.

Warm soup or tea can also help supply you with much-needed fluids and help soothe a sore throat. Avoid sugary, caffeinated, and high-calorie drinks as they can dehydrate your body as well. Dairy products are also known to thicken phlegm so steer clear of them until you are well.

2. Avoid alcohol and smoking.

Alcohol, as opposed to water, can dehydrate your body and wreak havoc on your immune system. It can also cause acids to build up in your stomach, as in the case of GERD, and will induce more coughing. Additionally, alcohol may also have adverse reactions with the cough medications that you are taking. It may cause you to feel faint, uncoordinated, or suffer from headaches or vomiting.

Smoking will simply aggravate your cough by irritating the airways. Exposure to secondhand smoke, smog, and other air pollutants will also do the same. Even exposure to strong scents like air fresheners, or overpowering perfumes can also trigger irritation and coughing.

3. Get your zzz’s.

Sleep and rest will help your body recover faster.

Stay away from stress and try to relax instead. Avoid going to activities that will exhaust your mind, body, and spirit. Your body needs all the energy it can get to fight off the infection.

Try to elevate your head when sleeping. Add pillows so you can avoid post nasal drip and prevent mucus from flowing down and irritating your throat.

Staying at home and resting will also help prevent the spread of infection that’s causing your cough.

4. Check your environment.

Make sure that you stay in a clean, dust-free, and smoke-free space.

Air pollutants can irritate your airways and cause further coughing. Have someone clean and disinfect your home especially those parts that can be easily contaminated such as doorknobs, shared gadgets, or remote controls.

Use a humidifier to help you breathe easier by adding moisture to the air. You can also take a steamy shower to loosen phlegm and nose secretions.

5. Eat a healthy diet.

Be sure to eat nutritious food that will help fortify your body and fight off the bacteria or virus that’s causing your cough.

Vitamin C-rich food can help your body recuperate better. This includes broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi, and other citrus fruits. Colorful fruits and vegetables, including oranges, apples, cranberries, and pineapples are also amazing health boosters.

Breathe comfortably

Getting bogged down with cough is a hassle, to say the least.

Aside from the constraints on your health, it also affects your time and resources.

So it is really a big relief that we are out of the Dark Ages and can readily seek medical assistance when we are not feeling so good.

We can now get a more informed diagnosis on what to do and how to deal effectively with cough and its underlying causes. There are also effective and fast-acting medicines like mucus-thinning expectorants that help chesty cough sufferers get much-needed relief.

Much as we appreciate the available treatments, it would still be wise to take precautionary measures to prevent getting coughs in the first place.

Practicing good health etiquette such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue (instead of your hand) when coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands properly can go a long way in preventing the spread of germs.

As they say, prevention is always better than cure. So true.

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