Soothing a Cough

by April Reinhardt
(last updated September 5, 2008)

Your body's protective means of riding substances from breathing passageways, coughing can happen voluntarily and involuntarily. Since it is a built-in protective measure, coughing should never be completely suppressed, but there are times when you need to soothe a cough, especially so you can sleep.

Coughing can range from a being mild nuisance to a debilitating event. There are a few things that you can do to soothe a cough at home:

  • Increase your fluid intake, and especially clear fluids. Fluids help liquefy mucus and ease a dry throat.
  • Drink hot liquids such as tea or broth.
  • If you realize that your cough is caused by allergies, use an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Mucinex D.
  • Suck on cough drops or throat lozenges, or use a throat spray such as Chloraseptic.
  • For nighttime cough relief, use a cough syrup containing a sleep aid, such as Nyquil. Those products not only suppress your cough, they will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • If you have heavy mucus that you cannot cough out, use a cough syrup specially formulated with an expectorant. Expectorants make coughs more productive, helping rid airways of inhibiting mucus.
  • Remove any irritants around you such as cigarette smoke, heavy air fresheners, paint fumes, hairspray, and cleaning agent and cooking odors.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to moisten the air.
  • Take a very hot shower with the bathroom door closed. The steam will moisten the air and help break up thick mucus and relieve a dry cough.

Cough suppressants, also known as antitussives, are used for treating dry coughs. Some common over-the-counter and prescription cough suppressants contain varying degrees of codeine or dextromethorphan. Both reduce the impulse to cough by muting the nerve at the brain stem that controls the chest area. Interestingly, recent studies indicate that eating 50 grams or more of dark chocolate can help suppress persistent coughs, since dark chocolate contains theobromine—a natural antitussive, superior to codeine.

Productive coughs that contain phlegm are treated with expectorants. The two most widely used expectorant drugs are guaifenesin and acetylcysteine. Expectorants dilute thick mucus as well as lubricate the irritated respiratory tract. While you can purchase guaifenesin as an over-the-counter cough medicine, acetylcysteine can only be obtained by prescription, since it is administered with special inhalation equipment.

Whatever type of cough you have, if it lasts more than a week, make an appointment to see your doctor. Treating cough symptoms will only soothe your cough. Finding the cause of your cough will stop you from coughing.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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