We all do it, and often we do it at some of the most inappropriate times, like when everyone else is quiet at weddings – you know just when the bride is about to say “I do” – out comes that loud bark of a cough from our mouth.
But why do we cough and what can we do about coughing? Taking a closer look into different kinds of coughs and natural home remedies for cough can help make life a little easier.
So, what is a cough anyway?
A cough is your body’s way of responding to irritants in your throat and airways. Here’s how it works, according to the Mayo Clinic: An irritant stimulates nerves there to send a cough impulse to your brain. The brain signals the muscles of your abdomen and chest wall to give a strong push of air to your lungs to try to expel the irritant.
An occasional cough is normal and healthy and everyone gets a cough from time to time. However, a cough that persists for several weeks or one that brings up discolored or bloody mucus may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
A cough can have a lot of force behind it – a vigorous cough can push air through the nearly closed vocal cords at speeds that can approach 500 miles per hour! So it’s no wonder that prolonged bouts of strenuous coughing can be exhausting, interfere with our sleep, cause headaches, urinary incontinence, and even broken ribs.
And one cough can be very different from another cough. In a lot of ways, a cough is your body trying to correct a problem, so it’s important to know what the underlying problem is and what you should be doing about it.
Different types of cough
There are generally about four different types of coughs that you should be aware of: Dry cough, whooping cough, croup cough and wet cough. All of these coughs have a different sound and by listening to what your cough sounds like, you will be in a better position to know what to do about it. Let’s break it down further.
Dry cough doesn’t produce any phlegm and is usually caused by environmental irritants, like dust or smoke, but can also be a symptom of more serious health-related issues like asthma, influenza or pneumonia.
Whooping cough symptoms include a sharp gasp for breath after a long bout of coughing. Whooping cough is contagious and puts infants at risk. It is a cough that can be prevented through a vaccine.
Croup cough is that loud, ugly, barking type of cough. This kind of cough is actually a viral infection. It will often affect kids and can get worse as the night goes on.
Wet cough is what clears the gross stuff out of your throat and nose. Usually this cough is the result of a run-of-the-mill type cold, but sometimes it can mean something more serious like bronchitis or pneumonia.
Natural home remedies for cough
We may wonder how we can get instant relief from a cough and while there is a lot of over-the-counter cough medicine out there promising fast relief to a cough, there are a number of overlooked natural home remedies for cough that can help.
Kids often get coughs throughout the year and these coughs can become more serious, sooner if kids are younger. Here are some natural ways you can help your children when they are coughing:
- Give them plenty to drink to prevent the mucus from thickening. Hot liquids will also help to reduce some of the soreness and irritation that can develop in their chest.
- Another thing you can do is add water to the air. Water vapor can moisten the air that they breathe and can ease or reduce your child’s coughing. You can add water to the air several different ways. The easiest way is to use a cool-mist humidifier or run a shower in the bathroom with the door shut for about 10 minutes.
- Inhaling cool air can help with dry coughs, so you can open the window in their room or get them outside or in a car with the windows open.
Cough remedies for grown-ups are not a whole lot different from kids. Here are some good ones to try:
- Simple things like taking honey can be effective in treating coughs and sore throats. Adding honey to other things like lemon juice or hot liquids can also boost the benefits to taking these.
- Speaking of hot liquids, tea can also be used to help reduce coughs. Herbal teas are a better way to go than black teas when fighting a cough – try teas like thyme or peppermint.
- Other things that you may not normally eat can help with coughs. One surprising thing is licorice. Licorice can soothe inflammation in your throat and ease coughing.
- Adding lemon and ginger can also help you to take care of a cough. Ginger has antihistamines that will help your body with decongestion. Lemon can soothe a sore and irritated throat.
- Onions make powerful cough medicine, too, because of their quercetin, an antioxidant found in large amounts in the humble onion. Studies at the University of Maryland Medical Center have found that quercetin supports healthy cholesterol, can reduce blood pressure in those with hypertension, and can act as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.
Make a cough syrup by cutting up a red onion and placing it in a jar. Pour honey over it and let it rest for eight to 12 hours. The syrup is your natural cough suppressant, and it tastes better than it sounds!
When you should see a doctor
Everybody coughs, but it’s when a cough keeps hanging on, you should pay close attention because it may signal that there could be a bigger health concern. Normally, a cough can last up to about three weeks.
But if you are continuing to cough for a period that’s much longer, it could mean there’s something else going on. When it comes to children, if a cough continues for four weeks or more, it could mean that there is another health issue involved as well.
It’s important to know what your body is trying to tell you. By paying attention to your coughs, identifying the difference between the types of coughs, and applying some natural home remedies for coughs you can help your body fight the irritant and hopefully recover more quickly and fully.
Another nice perk is that you can also cut down on the embarrassment factor at the next wedding or event.