Having a cough is one of the most common reasons for seeing your doctor. Coughing is important to keep your throat and airways clear by getting rid of mucus or other irritating particles. However, a long-lasting (chronic) or severe cough may mean you have an underlying disease or disorder.
Coughs can be dry or "productive," which means that you are bringing up sputum or phlegm when you cough. An acute cough typically lasts no longer than 2 to 3 weeks. A chronic cough lasts longer than 4 weeks.
Many illnesses can cause cough. Acute coughs usually begin suddenly and are often due to a cold, flu, or sinus infection. Coughs from a lung infection, such as bronchitis can start out suddenly and then linger. Other common causes of chronic. or ongoing coughs, include asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from emphysema or chronic bronchitis, sinusitis with drainage into the throat, smoking cigarettes or exposure to secondhand smoke, pollutants, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Some medications, such as ACE inhibitors taken to lower blood pressure, can cause chronic coughs in some people.
If your cough lasts more than 2 weeks, see your doctor to determine the cause.
The symptoms that accompany your cough depend on what is causing it, and may include:
Respiratory tract infection:
Postnasal drip (from allergies or a cold)
Medications called ACE inhibitors that are used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, including:
Your doctor will take a detailed medical history, gathering information about the quality of the cough, how long you have had it, symptoms associated with the cough, etc. Your doctor will also do a thorough physical examination, paying particular attention to your nasal passages, throat, lungs, heart, and legs. Your doctor may order tests, such as:
The goal of treatment is to not only soothe your cough but also treat the underlying cause.
If your doctor suspects a certain illness, your doctor may suggest you try certain medications that can help pinpoint the cause. For example, if your doctor thinks your cough is due to GERD, you may be prescribed medications to reduce your stomach acid. If your cough gets better, then the diagnosis will be correct.
Doctors may prescribe other medications to either relieve your cough or treat the underlying problem, including cough suppressants, inhalers, antibiotics, antihistamines, or expectorants. Certain herbs and supplements may also help in relieving your cough.
Doctors may prescribe different drugs to either relieve your cough or treat the underlying condition, including:
Nasal corticosteroids. These prescription sprays reduce inflammation of the nose and help relieve sneezing, itching, and runny nose:
Because supplements may have side effects or interact with medications, you should take them only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
For cough from respiratory infections, sinusitis, or allergies:
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care practitioner.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of coughs based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. A constitutional type is defined as a person's physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.
To successfully treat your cough, it is important to determine the underlying condition that is causing it.
Call your doctor right away if any of the following symptoms accompany your cough:
Most causes of cough are very treatable. The prognosis depends on what is causing your cough.
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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