Coughing is a natural reflex that serves as the body's way to clear the trachea, throat, and lungs. This involuntary action aids in the removal of mucus, dust, and dirt from the respiratory system.
Occasional coughing is considered normal and part of the body's defense mechanism. However, persistent coughing over an extended period is generally not a cause for concern. In most cases, such coughs resolve on their own within 2 to 3 weeks
At times, coughing may lead to the presence of mucus in your mouth. It's important to note that swallowing this mucus poses no harm; it travels to the stomach and is eliminated from the body through bowel movements, preventing any backflow into the lungs.
Dealing with symptoms related to coughing.
Additional symptoms like rib pain, headache pain or a sore throat can be present due to coughing. Such discomforts can often be alleviated by taking rest or by over the counter painkillers like Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. The good news is that these symptoms typically subside within a few weeks.
Addressing throat discomforts
If your throat hurts from coughing or you can't stop coughing (i.e. due to a tickle in your throat), consider home remedies. Hydrate regularly with cold water for a sore throat or opt for warm beverages like tea with honey to soothe a tickly cough. Avoid throat clearing, as it can exacerbate the irritation and trigger more coughing.
- Maintain clean air, avoid smoke, and stay hydrated are crucial, to stop coughing at night
- Home remedies such as warm beverages and avoiding irritants, can help reduce coughing
- If you have thick mucus, steam inhalation above a bowl of hot water (avoid cooking water!) can provide relief
- In the case of a cold, you can use nasal spray (Xylometazoline) to improve your breathing and reduce coughing
- If you are experiencing persistent symptoms or severe discomfort, it is recommended to consult a physician
- If you find yourself coughing up bright red blood with mucus, it's advisable to seek prompt medical attention
Coughing can arise from various causes such as an allergic reaction, a cold, smoking and many other factors (see below).
Understanding the coughing mechanism
There is a mucous membrane on the inside of your trachea and lungs, resembling skin with a layer of mucus. Nerves underneath are more likely to be stimulated if the mucous membrane is damaged, causing you to cough. The mucous membrane often produces more mucus, intensifying the urge to cough.
- Inflammation, as seen with a cold
- Exposure to cigarette smoke
- Exposure to certain chemicals like chlorine or ammonia
- Very cold or warm air
- Air conditioning
- Exhaust gases
- Ingestion of a foreign object
- Frequent throat clearing
- Exhaust gases
- If you cough excessively, it may lead to a sore throat, worsening the coughing cycle
While home remedies and over-the-counter solutions may provide relief for some, it's important to acknowledge the signs that warrant medical attention.
If you are experiencing persistent symptoms or severe discomfort, it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance. If believe you are in an emergency situation, always call directly the emergency services.
How do I know if there is an emergency?
- Coughing up blood
- Rapid or difficult breathing when sitting or lying quietly
- Wheezing sound during breathing
- Fever accompanied by confusion or drowsiness
- Severe chest pain
- Fever persists for more than 3 days (38 degrees Celsius or higher)
- Fever returning after a period of no fever
- An age above 70 years old
- Weakened immune system due to other disease or medications>
- Cough persists for more than 3 weeks
- Frequent episodes of intense coughing, especially if you smoke