Coughing is one of the body’s self-defence mechanics aimed at clearing the respiratory system of irritants. When your airways are irritated, your nervous system triggers your chest and stomach muscles to rapidly contract to expel the irritant with a rapid burst of breath.
Diagnosing a Cough
There are three major types of cough, wet/productive, dry and paroxysmal.
- Wet/Productive Cough
A wet or productive cough typically brings up mucus.
- Dry Cough
A dry cough does not produce any mucus.
- Paroxysmal Cough
Violent, uncomfortable, uncontrollable coughing fits typify a paroxysmal cough.
A wet cough is commonly accompanied by a runny nose, fatigue and post nasal drip . You may feel as though there is something stuck in or dripping down the back of your throat or in your chest.
A dry cough is often more difficult to control than a wet cough, leading to more prolonged coughing fits, and is usually accompanied by a tickle at the back of your throat
Paroxysmal coughing is uncontrollable and prolonged , leaving the sufferer exhausted and short of breath after a fit. People suffering a shortness of breath after an attack may also start vomiting.
Causes of Coughs
A wet cough can be caused by a number of factors, but most commonly cold and flu. Other causes of a productive cough include:
- Acute Bronchitis
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) like Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis
A dry cough is one of the major symptoms of COVID-19.
Other causes of a dry cough include:
- Sore throat
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)
- Hay Fever
The major cause of paroxysmal coughing in children is Pertussis, otherwise known as Whooping Cough , after the whooping sound made by children as they gulp in air after an attack.
Other causes of paroxysmal coughing include:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases such as Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis
Cough Self Care
Over the counter cough, cold and flu medicine can be used safely to control a wet cough for adults . Some studies have shown that a teaspoon of honey taken before bed can have a beneficial effect on symptoms in children.
Over the counter cough, cold and flu medicine can be used safely to control a wet cough for adults.
Other self care measures for a dry cough depend on the cause but include:
- A teaspoon of honey to soothe and coat the throat
- Antacids or reflux medication for GORD related coughs
- Antihistamines for allergies
- Drinking plenty of liquids, especially warm broths and teas
- Gargling salt water
Typically anyone with a paroxysmal cough should seek immediate medical attention , as antibiotics, prescription medication or other forms of medical intervention may be needed.
See a Doctor If:
- Your cough lasts more than 8 weeks
- You cough up blood
- You are short of breath
- Your cough worsens at night
- You have chest pain accompanying your cough
- You have a choking sensation or vomiting in conjunction with the cough
- You have a fever of 38⁰C or more
- You feel weak
- You have muscle aches and pains