A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus, phlegm, and irritants, such as dust, smoke or a foreign body. Coughing can happen voluntarily as well as involuntarily. Cough is a protective, primitive reflex in healthy individuals. Coughing is an action the body takes 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. Coughing can also be triggered by a bolus of food going down the trachea instead of the esophagus, due to a failure of the epiglottis, although this may result in choking instead. Cigarette smokers often have what is referred to as a Smoker's Cough. This takes the form of a loud hacking cough and often results in the expiration of phlegm. Acute coughs begin suddenly and usually last no more than 2 to 3 weeks. Acute coughs are the kind you most often get with a cold or flu. Chronic coughs last longer than 2 to 3 weeks. When cough lasts for more than a few weeks multiple causes are likely and only when all the causes are treated will the patient be symptom free.
Some prescribed medicines can also cause a cough. For example, ACE-inhibitors,which are medicines that are used for treating heart failure. Postnasal drip caused by allergies can make you cough. Postnasal drip is mucus that runs down your throat from the back of your nose. Coughing can also be triggered by a bolus of food going down the trachea instead of the esophagus, due to a failure of the epiglottis, although this may result in choking instead. Rarely, a cough is a symptom of a more serious condition such as lung cancer, heart failure, a pulmonary embolism, tuberculosis or pneumonia. Cough can be a vexing problem for the patient and the physician alike. Successful treatment depends on making an accurate diagnosis and giving specific therapy. Coughs can be treated with cough medicines. Dry coughs are treated with cough suppressants that suppress the body's urge to cough, while productive coughs are treated with expectorants that loosen mucus from the respiratory tract. Gargling with salt and warm water can also be very helpful by cutting phlegm and reducing inflammation.
Prevention of Cough
- Quit smoking or don't smoke in the first place.
- If you have allergies year round, cover your pillows and mattress with dust mite covers, use an air purifier, avoid pets and other triggers.
- Drink plenty of water and get a good night's sleep.
- If you know someone has a cold or the flu, give them plenty of space. The virus is spread through airborne transmission or personal contact. Don't take a chance of exposing yourself to their germs.
Home Remedies for Cough
- Take a teaspoon of honey with a few drops of vodka or brandy before bed.
- About 10 gm of ginger should be cut into small pieces and boiled in a cup of water. It should then be strained and half a teaspoon of sugar added to it. This decoction should be drunk when hot.
- Drink red raspberry, honey suckle, or liquorice tea with honey.
- Add a gram of turmeric powder to a teaspoon of honey for curing dry cough.
- Add two tablespoons of glycerine and two tablespoons of honey to the lemon juice. Take 1 teaspoonful daily.
- The herb belleric myroblan is a household remedy for a cough.