What is a cough?
A cough is a reflex action. It is the body’s method of removing harmful particles, chemicals or other irritants from the upper airways. It is useful to prevent these substances from reaching the lungs where they could cause more problems.
What causes coughs?
There are many different causes of coughs. These can be related to environmental factors such as dust, pollen, smoke etc. These can be infectious conditions such as the common cold, whooping cough, pneumonia, viral chest infections etc. In addition, some individuals will suffer with long term coughs. These can be caused by certain types of medicines, or chronic conditions such as asthma and COPD.
What are the different types of cough?
There are two main types of coughs and the treatment provided depends very much upon the type of cough. The first type of cough is a dry tickly cough. This is an irritating cough which produces no phlegm. The second type of cough is a chesty cough. This type of cough is associated with coughing up of mucus or phlegm. It is also quite common to have a ‘rattle’ in the chest with this type of cough.
How do we treat the different types of cough?
Treatment of a cough depends upon the cause. Chronic conditions such as asthma etc. will require prescribed treatment, however, for acute coughs with no known underlying cause, your pharmacist can treat your cough using over the counter medications.
Dry Cough Treatment
Dry coughs can be treated using sugar based syrups which coat the throat. This prevents irritants from ‘tickling’ the throat and should reduce coughing. Glycerin Lemon and Honey Syrup can be used for this purpose as can pure glycerin syrup. Another treatment for dry tickly coughs is a medicine known as Dextromethorphan. This is a drug which acts on the brain to suppress the cough reflex and thus should help to reduce the frequency of coughing. This drug is available as a liquid formulation which combines the effects of the dextromethorphan with a syrup to coat the throat. This drug is found in cough bottles such as Robitussin and Actifed Dry Cough bottles.
Chesty Cough Treatment
Chesty coughs can be treated over the counter provided that the mucus coughed up is clear in colour. Coloured mucus is an indication of an infection. In this case it is important to see your doctor as you may need a course of antibiotics. For those with clear mucus, it is possible for your pharmacist to treat your cough using a class of medicines known as expectorants. These expectorants don’t actually stop the coughing however they thin the mucus responsible for your cough and thus make it easier to cough up. Using these medicines can help get rid of the mucus and to clear the cough up much more quickly! Guaifenesin is an example of an expectorant. It is found in cough bottles such as Benylin for chesty coughs. Taking in lots of fluids will also help to thin the mucus and make it easier to cough up.
All of the products mentioned above, and many more, are available without prescription from your local McKay Pharmacy. If you are suffering with any type of cough, call in and one of our highly trained pharmacists can advise on how best to manage your cough and will have you right as rain in no time!Back