Finding Relief for a Persistent Cough

A sore throat and cough are usually the first sign of a common cold. While a sore throat will usually taper off after a few days (it usually precedes other symptoms, such as a runny nose or nasal congestion, headache, fever and/or chills, and fatigue), the cough itself can persist.

There are two types of coughs that are most common when you have a cold: A wet cough or a dry cough. When you have a wet cough, you often produce mucus. When the mucus is clear in colour, it’s not normally something to be alarmed about. However, if the mucus you’re bringing up as a result of coughing is yellow or green in colour, or tinged with blood, you could have a respiratory tract infection that is bacterial in nature and may require antibiotics. Aside from the common cold and infections, a wet cough can also be caused from other respiratory conditions such as asthma. When you have a dry cough, you will rarely or almost never produce any mucus. However, that’s not to say that you don’t have an infection or won’t require antibiotics, as dry coughs can also be the result of pneumonia or bronchitis. Other causes of a dry cough include things such as asthma, as well as exposure to certain irritants, such as cigarette smoke.

One of the most important things you can do if you come down with a common cold or influenza and have a cough is to make sure you’re getting plenty of rest. The more rest you get, the quicker you will get better — and the less you get, the longer your recovery period will be. You’re also more likely to develop recurring illness when you don’t get enough sleep. I also recommend staying as hydrated as possible. When you have a cold, you can develop something known as postnasal drip and those secretions can trickle down the back of your throat, causing irritation and resulting in a cough. Drinking fluid, however, can help to thin out mucus and reduce the irritation caused by postnasal drip. Aside from water, hot liquids (such as tea and honey) can also be soothing to the throat and therefore relieve a cough. Lozenges can also be helpful, especially those that are menthol, as they can numb the back of the throat which decreases the cough reflex. If you live in a drier climate, using a humidifier can help put moisture in your home which can also help relieve the cough. However, if you’re going to be using a humidifier then make sure you’re also cleaning it regularly, as an uncleaned humidifier can be a breeding ground for mold, fungus and bacteria, which you will ultimately breathe in, and risk the potential of becoming ill all over again — maybe even worse than before. To prevent this risk, a good alternative at getting some extra moisture is to take a hot shower.

As mentioned, cigarette smoke can also cause a cough — and when you’re sick, smoking can make your cough even worse than anticipating. The best thing you could do to relieve your cough (and for your overall health, in general) is to quit smoking. Other irritants that can contribute to coughs, such as perfumes, other scented sprays, air freshers, and cleaning chemicals, should also be avoided when you have a persisting cough.

Depending on the cause of your cough and any additional symptoms you might be exhibiting, you may require antibiotics. In other cases, getting rid of a cough is simply a matter of letting nature take its course. There are, however, some other medications that may be helpful when you have a cough and cold. Decongestants, for example. These are available in both oral and nasal spray form, and help to shrink down inflamed nasal tissue as well as reduce the production of mucus, and help to open up the airway passages which can then help decrease your cough. If you are taking decongestants orally, they are considered safer than the alternative (nasal sprays); though they come with their own set of side effects, such as increased heart rate. If you use nasal spray decongestants for too long, you may develop something known as rebound congestion — which is essentially like having a bad cold with severe congestion. Always be sure to follow instructions on the labels and do not use for longer than the recommended timeframe. If you have any questions about these medications, always check with your pharmacist or doctor. You can also find relief from a cough by taking a cough suppressant or expectorant. A cough suppressant can be helpful at night, especially if you’re coughing to the point where your ribs hurt and you can’t get a good sleep. While an expectorant is better to take in the daytime. It can help thin out mucus, making it easier to cough up.

Originally published at on December 23, 2018.



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