Why we cough, and the type of cough it is, can give us important information on how to relieve it.
We often cough when there are foreign particles, irritants or fluids in the airways and when mucous congestion builds up during a cold.[i]
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Herbalist and Pharmacist Gerald Quigley, shares the type of cough you have may determine the approach you need to follow, to help you find respite from symptoms and recover as quickly as possible.
What type of cough do you have?
A chesty cough occurs when excess mucus builds up in the airways and it may also be accompanied with discomfort and congestion. A chesty cough is typically identified if you’re coughing up mucus. A chesty cough can be caused by a cold in typical mild cases. But if symptoms persist, or concern you, you should see your healthcare professional.
Usually caused by an infection of the upper respiratory tract (the nose and throat), and mainly occurs when you have a cold or flu, although other irritants can also cause a dry cough. But if symptoms persist, or concern you, you should see your healthcare professional.
Dry, barking cough
Usually caused by a viral infection, you may also notice a high-pitched sound when you breathe in. A visit to the doctor is usually in order to determine symptoms diagnosis and next steps for alleviation.
This type of cough tends to get worse at night, and you may cough 5 to 15 times in succession. A visit to the doctor is usually in order to determine symptoms diagnosis and next steps for alleviation.
How long does a cough last for?
Most coughs associated with colds tend to clear up within 2 to 3 weeks,[iii] although you should always discuss any concerns, particularly a persistent or painful cough, with your doctor.
How to relieve your cough
There’s nothing worse than being constantly disrupted by a nasty cough, which can leave you feeling tired and unrested.
The type of cough you have can determine the relief approach:
If you have a chesty cough, it’s important to help your body remove mucus. A steam inhalation may help – either in the shower, or by filling a bowl of boiling water and adding eucalyptus oil.
A proven way to help relieve chesty coughs is with Ivy leaf extract. Research has found that it can help relieve coughing and ease congestion during a cold[iv],[v]. One study found that after taking products containing the specific Ivy extract (EA 575®), 95% of patients showed improvement in their symptoms after 7 days.[vi]
Dry coughs may be eased by traditional remedies such as salt gargles, honey[vii], thyme, marshmallow extract and liquorice root. Studies also show benefits from zinc supplementation. A small systematic study found that people who took zinc supplements were quicker to recover from their colds, and cough symptoms were relieved.[viii]
And don’t forget to keep hydrated and rest up when you can.
[i] Atkinson SK, Sadofsky LR, Morice AH. 2016;3(1):e000118. doi:10.1136/bmjresp-2015-000118.
[ii] Atkinson SK, Sadofsky LR, Morice AH. 2016;3(1):e000118. doi:10.1136/bmjresp-2015-000118.
[iii] Atkinson SK, Sadofsky LR, Morice AH. 2016;3(1):e000118. doi:10.1136/bmjresp-2015-000118.
[iv] Lang C, et al. Planta Med 2015; 81:968-974.
[v] Fazio S, et al. Phytomedicine 2009 ; 16.1:17- 24
[vi] Fazio S, et al. Phytomedicine 2009 ; 16.1:17- 24
[vii] Ahmed N, Sutcliffe A, Tipper C. 2013;5(2):31-34. doi:10.4081/pr.2013.e8.
[viii] Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2012;184(10):E551-E561. doi:10.1503/cmaj.111990.