Cough is a common symptom of many illnesses, allergies, or irritation to the throat passages. It plays a pivotal role in clearing irritants and infections from the body, but constant hacking and throat-clearing can be annoying; not to mention it can affect one’s quality of life.
Below are some tips and tricks which can be done easily at home to help get rid of a cough. However, depending on the type of cough [Link to types of cough], they do vary in their effectiveness.. It is important to check in with the doctor should the cough persist for more than a few weeks. Locating and identifying the type of cough will aid in treating the underlying condition, so that the cough eventually stops. Some remedies are suitable for adults, but not for children, so it is important to take note who is receiving the remedy.
Drink plenty of fluids
During the course of an illness, mucus can drip down from the back of the nose to the throat. This causes irritation and coughing to happen. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to thin out the mucus drip, which then makes it less likely to irritate the throat and trigger a cough. It also makes it easier for the lungs to clear out the thinner mucus discharge.
A dehydrated state can trigger the body to produce more histamines, which cause the nose to swell and produce more mucus, then setting off a coughing fit. Hence, drinking fluids and keeping hydrated is a key part of preventing more coughing.
Sip a hot drink
It is the age-old saying of drinking chicken soup to fight a cold. Sipping a hot drink not only brings comfort during an illness, but studies have shown that hot liquids can help to ease symptoms of colds, including cough. The drink itself hydrates the body, and the heat helps to reduce nasal congestion and hence the chances of back drip into the throat, resulting in a cough. Some ideas for a hot drink include chamomile tea and warm soups, which are calming.
Sleep on a raised and tilted surface
When coughs are caused by colds or allergic reactions, raising the head on an elevated surface can help to reduce coughing. When the head is lying flat on a surface, the mucus starts to pool at the throat because of the gravity pulling the mucus down the throat, causing irritation. Use an extra pillow to prop up the head, or raise the head of the bed with a stable surface, such as putting thick books under the head of the bed.
Honey is known to be an age-old remedy for a sore throat. According to some studies done on honey, it can relieve coughs more effectively than over-the-counter medications which contain dextromethorphan, a kind of cough suppressant. A way to use honey would be to mix two teaspoons of honey with herbal tea or warm water and lemon. The honey helps to soothe the throat, while lemon juice can help with any nasal congestion. Other ways would be to eat the honey on a slice of bread as a snack, or to eat it by the spoonful.
Probiotics are microorganisms that are widely known for their health benefits. They help with balancing the good bacteria in our intestines, and also in supporting immune system function throughout the body. While they are not able to directly provide relief to a cough, their health benefits could help with prevention. A study conducted has shown that after consuming various types of probiotics, there was a decrease in the number of people contracting upper respiratory infections, though research on this is inconclusive at the moment. Probiotics can be found in a wide array of foods. It can be consumed as a supplement as well. There are different daily recommended intakes for different manufacturers of probiotic supplements. With the variety of probiotics available, it is advisable to speak with the doctor on the probiotics to consume. The most natural way to get probiotics would be through fermented foods, such as:
- Sauerkraut, a type of German food
Bromelain is an enzyme found exclusively in the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant. There is some evidence to show that this enzyme can help to suppress coughs, and loosen the mucus in the throat. Eat a slice of pineapple, or drink about 100 ml of fresh pineapple juice three times a day. Sometimes, bromelain can be used to treat inflammation and swelling. Bromelain supplements should not be taken by children or adults who use blood thinners. People who are using antibiotics like amoxicillin should also avoid consuming bromelain during their course of medication, as it can increase the absorption of the antibiotic into the body.
Peppermint contains menthol, giving it the minty taste it is known for and also having the added benefit of acting as a decongestant, helping to break down mucus in the body. Utilise the healing properties of peppermint by brewing peppermint tea, or by inhaling peppermint vapour from a steam bath. To make a steam bath, add three to four drops of peppermint oil for every 150 ml of hot water. Put a towel over the person’s head, and take deep breaths above the water to inhale the vapours.
Marshmallow is from Althaea officinalis, a type of plant that flowers during the summer season. The leaves and roots of this herb have been known for its healing properties since ancient times, and are used to treat sore throats and suppress coughs. Mucilage, a substance found in the marshmallow herb, coats the throat and soothes irritation. The herb is generally considered safe for consumption, though it should be noted there are no well-controlled studies to support these claims of marshmallow’s healing benefits. Marshmallow root can be found in the form of tea or a capsule. This herb is not recommended for children.
The essence taken from thyme leaves, mixed with ivy, can help to relieve coughing and short-term bronchitis as well. This essence contains flavonoids which help to relax the throat muscles involved in coughing, and lessen inflammation. Thyme has been used for relief for respiratory illnesses. Make thyme tea at home by using two teaspoons of crushed thyme leaves, and a cup of boiling water. Put the thyme leaves in the cup of water, cover it, and let it steep for ten minutes before straining the leaves out of the tea.
Turmeric consists of the compound curcumin, which may have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. This could be beneficial for several conditions, including a dry cough. Curcumin is well absorbed into the bloodstream when consumed with black pepper. Add one teaspoon of turmeric and one-eighth a teaspoon of black pepper into a drink, such as a cold juice, to drink. Alternatively, you can make it into a warm tea. Tumeric has been used for upper respiratory conditions, bronchitis, and asthma in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, which is a kind of ancient Indian medical treatment method. Turmeric can be obtained in its spice form easily in the market, and can be bought from stores in capsule form as well.
Ginger, known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, has been shown to boost immune systems and relieve pain and discomfort. It can be found in many teas as an ingredient. You can also make ginger tea from ginger root by steeping the peeled or cut root in warm water. Adding honey may make it even more beneficial for dry cough. Ginger tea is another good choice. The spicy root may help relax the smooth muscles in your airways. Steep chopped ginger in boiling water for 5-10 minutes and discard before sipping.
You can also take ginger in capsule form, or chew on ginger root to alleviate dry cough.
Masala chai tea
In Indian, chai is used to treat conditions like sore throat and dry cough. Masala chai contains several antioxidant ingredients, including cloves and cardamom. Cloves may also be effective to help dispel excess mucus from the body. Chai tea also contains cinnamon, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Capsaicin is found in chili peppers, and has been shown to have some benefits in reducing chronic coughing. It can be taken as a capsule form, or in a liquid form. Take some chili peppers, and steep them in warm water to make a drink from the peppers. Capsaicin is not recommended for children.
Slippery elm is similar to marshmallow root, as it contains a high level of mucilage. This herb was traditionally used to treat coughing and digestive issues. Make slippery elm tea by adding one teaspoon of the dried herb to a cup of hot water, and steep for at least ten minutes before drinking the tea. Slippery elm can interfere with absorption of medications by the body, so it is important to check with the doctor whether this can be consumed alongside with other medication. Slippery elm is available in powder and capsule form in health stores and online.
Other home remedies to try
Aromatherapy with eucalyptus
Aromatherapy uses essential oils to soothe and heal. Some essential oils, like eucalyptus, may help to ease dry cough by working as a decongestant. Add eucalyptus to a diffuser, spritzer, or inhaler. Alternatively, add a few drops of this oil to hot water in a bowl, and inhale the steam. If someone has night time coughing, use eucalyptus to create a scent in the room to aid in a better night’s sleep.
Rinse your nose
Using saline sprays or nasal irrigation can help to rinse out the nose by flushing out cough-inducing mucus and allergens from the nasal passage. Tilt the person’s head over a sink and use a neti pot, nasal cup, or bulb syringe to pour salt water in one nostril and let it drain out of the others.
Salt and water gargle
This is a simple remedy to help soothe an itchy throat that causes coughing. Mix one-quarter to half a teaspoon of salt with eight ounces of warm water, gargle, and spit it out. This helps to loosen thick mucus and clear allergens and bacteria. This may be difficult for children under six years old to do, so alternate remedies are recommended.
Use a humidifier
Humidifiers are used in areas with drier air. Dry air can cause a dry cough, and humidifiers help to put moisture into the air, which can provide relief. Humidifiers help to open up the sinuses, making them beneficial for reducing persistent post-nasal drips.
Use an air purifier
These help to remove airborne irritants, such as dust and smoke, from the air in the home. They can also reduce allergens like pet dander and pollen in the air. Breathing in clean air can help in reducing throat irritation and the urge to cough.
Dietary changes for acid reflux (Lifestyle changes)
Some common reasons for cough could be related to dietary and lifestyle habits. An example is acid reflux, which is a common cause of a cough. Avoiding foods which can trigger acid reflux can help to manage this condition and reduce the cough which accompanies it. A person needs to be aware of their triggers for their reflux, remove the most common triggers from their diet, and monitor symptoms. Foods and drinks that most often trigger reflux would be:
- Citrus foods
- Fried and fatty foods
- Garlic and onions
- Spices and spicy foods
- Tomatoes and tomato-based products
Clear irritants from your home
Allergies or sensitivities can trigger coughing in some people. Cleaning away mold, dust, and pollen could help in reducing the chances of triggering coughing. Wash bed sheets in hot water, clean the floor with a vacuum, and scrub windows with a bleach solution. Some perfumes and fragrances in laundry detergents can be strong-smelling, causing some people who are sensitive to such scents to cough, as they irritate the sinuses and increase mucus production. Stop using these types of scented products and switch to non-scented variations of the product.
Smoking paralyzes the tiny hairs lining the lungs that help the body to clear out mucus and dirt. Stay away from cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and secondhand smoke to prevent the smoker’s long-term cough.
Over the Counter
Over-the-counter medicines may be used to alleviate the discomfort associated with coughs. They can be helpful in soothing and treating the symptoms of common cough, but only in cases where the cough is not associated with breathing problems, wheezing, weight loss, chest pain or blood stained phlegm.
Antitussive cough syrup
Antitussive cough medications work by reducing the cough reflex. This is especially beneficial for dry coughs, as it stops the desire to cough. Some antitussives contain codeine and are available by prescription only. Others are available over the counter. These typically contain active ingredients, such as dextromethorphan, camphor, or menthol.
Cough drops are medicated lozenges designed to lubricate and soothe irritated throat tissues. Their ingredients vary and so do their actions. Some cough drops contain menthol, which acts as a numbing agent to reduce the urge to cough. Cough drops that contain ginger or eucalyptus can also be found.
You may need to see a doctor to obtain medication or clarify whether consumption of certain of the above remedies are safe for you. Visit our telemedicine page for fuss-free options to see the doctor.
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