When cold weather hits or allergy season comes around, you can hear it. The sound of countless people hacking up a lung. While coughing is a pain, its purpose is to protect you. It’s a reflex that rids the body of things that don’t belong in your respiratory system like inhaled dirt, food, germs, and excess mucus. Many things can trigger a cough, but here are a few of the most common.
Cold and the flu are the most common causes of a cough. The purpose of the cough is to get the germy mucus out of your lungs. Sometimes after you’ve recovered from an illness, a “dry” cough can linger for several days. A dry cough is a cough that doesn’t move any mucus or foreign objects out of your respiratory tract. Ironically, it’s often caused by coughing. Coughing irritates the lungs. Irritated lungs cause coughing and so on.
If you have had the cold or the flu, your respiratory tract will heal with time and your cough should subside. Until then try drinking warm fluids, inhaling warm moist air, and using cough drops to soothe your throat. You can also use over the counter medicines to help calm your cough. Suppressants will lessen the urge to cough while expectorants thin mucus making it easier to expel.
Allergies and Asthma
For people with allergies or asthma, inhaling a trigger like mold or pollen can cause the lungs to overreact. Your body experiences allergens as a hostile irritant, and coughing is your body’s way of expelling what is harming it
If you don’t have allergies, things like cold air, cigarette smoke and strong perfume can cause coughing. The easiest way to treat allergies is to remove allergens from your home. Wash your sheets and pillowcases regularly. Keep your pets out of your bedroom. Vacuum often or ditch carpeting all together. Change the filter in your air conditioning units. Also, consider using air purifiers.
Coughing may be a sign of a severe, potentially life threatening allergic reaction called Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis usually occurs within minutes of coming into contact with an allergen and involves symptoms such as skin reactions, low blood pressure, swollen tongue or throat, weak and rapid pulse, nausea and vomiting and dizziness or fainting. If you believe you are having a severe allergic reaction call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Post Nasal Drip
When you’re sick and congested, mucus drips down from your nose into the back of your throat and makes you cough. Post nasal drip is a common side effect of colds, flu, sinus infection, and allergies. Because colds and flu cause post nasal drip, over the counter medications like guaifenesin (an expectorant) can help thin the mucus in the back of your throat and make it easier to cough up. You can also use saline nasal sprays or irrigation like a neti pot to loosen mucus, bacteria, and other allergens out of your sinuses. The key is getting the mucus out of your airway.
When you have heartburn, stomach acid backs up into your throat. Frequent heartburn can irritate your windpipe and cause you to cough. Getting to the root of the problem and being treated for your acid reflux is the best way to prevent this type of cough.
There are plenty of other possible causes for a cough like lung inflammation, sleep apnea, drug side effects, and lung cancer. Most lingering coughs are harmless, but if you can’t figure out what is causing your cough or if you’ve been coughing for over one week, it’s time to see a medical professional. Don’t wait to see your provider if coughing interferes with your daily life or is accompanied by one of the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest Pain
- Engaging heartburn
- Coughing up blood
- Fever or night sweats
- Trouble sleeping
Remember if you do feel sick this cold and flu season, we’re here to help. We provide services for acute illnesses such as fever, respiratory illness, stomach pain, skin rash and minor injuries. Located off Highway 45 in Guntown, Mississippi you’ll find the healthcare you need close to where you live and work. We accept both appointments and walk-ins. Give us a call today at (662) 348-3342