Coughing is a symptom of various conditions that affect the respiratory system. It may be a mild cough that causes minor discomfort, or a chronic and debilitating cough that may lead to complications.
Other complications related to exertion when coughing include development of abdominal hernia and breaking of tiny blood vessels in the eyes.
When you cough, your abdominal and chest muscles contract to force air out of the lungs against a closed glottis (the tissue that guards the opening of the windpipe). The complex series of actions involved in the mechanism of a cough can release air from the lungs at a speed of over 100 mph. Strenuous coughing can then lead to other symptoms, such as retching, vomiting, lightheadedness and even a cracked rib. Prolonged coughing can also lead to dehydration, ear infection and seizures, especially in infants.
How To Relieve Bad Coughs
The best way to relieve a bad cough is to treat the condition that is causing it. Chronic or severe cough may be due to a chronic disease, such as asthma or chronic sinusitis, or it may be due an acute condition such as whooping cough or a viral infection. Sometimes, however, the cough may persist even when the respiratory condition gets better.
Here are some ways to manage your cough:
- Maintain good hydration. Drink water and other fluids to help thin out the mucus in your respiratory tract and keep your mucous membranes moist. This will make it easier to cough out your mucous secretions.
- Take hot drinks and lozenges. These will help soothe the throat and numb that back of your throat.
- Add more moisture by taking steamy showers or using a humidifier. This will help loosen secretions and ease your cough. Be sure to use clean humidifiers to prevent the growth of fungus, molds or bacteria.
- Stop smoking.
- Remove irritants such as perfumes or scents from the air, which can cause chronic sinus irritation.
- Take over-the-counter cough medications. Nasal decongestants containing phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine help relieve nasal congestion and reduce mucus production. However, these medicines can raise blood pressure in people with hypertension. Overuse can also lead to excessive nasal dryness and can trigger dry cough, so do not use these for more than 3 days. You can also use cough suppressants that contain dextromethorphan when your chest hurts from coughing or when you cannot sleep due to cough. If you have thick phlegm, take a cough expectorant like guaifenesin, which helps thin out your mucus to make it easier to cough it up.
- Gargle with warm saltwater to cleanse the throat and get rid of mucus.
- Use extra pillows at night to elevate your head and ease dry cough.
- Take ginger tea, honey, grape juice, eucalyptus, mint or other herbal supplements to relieve cough.
If your cough persists for more than 4 weeks, or if you have other symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, weight loss, or blood in your sputum, call your doctor immediately.
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