Living with Cough & Cough Care
Living With Cough
If you have a cough, you can take steps to recover from the condition that's causing the cough. There also are ways to relieve your cough. Ongoing care and lifestyle changes can help you.
Ongoing Care for Cough
Follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you for treating the cause of your cough. Take all medicines as your doctor prescribes. If you're using antibiotics, continue to take the medicine until it's all gone. You may start to feel better before you finish the medicine, but you should continue to take it.
Ask your doctor about ways to relieve your cough. He or she may recommend cough medicines. However, these medicines usually are used only when the cause of a cough is unknown and the cough is causing a lot of discomfort.
A cool-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer may help relieve an irritated throat and loosen mucus. Getting enough fluids, for example, water, soup, or juice may have the same effect. Ask your doctor about how much fluid you need.
Talk to your doctor about when to schedule follow up care.
If you smoke, quit. Talk to your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking.
Try to avoid irritants and allergens that make you cough. Examples of irritants include cigarette smoke, air pollution, paint fumes, and scented products like perfumes or air fresheners. Examples of allergens include dust, animal dander, mold, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers.
Follow a healthy diet and be as physically active as you can. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet also is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar.
Key Points of a Cough
- A cough is a natural reflex that protects your lungs. Coughing helps clear your airways of lung irritants, such as smoke and mucus. This helps prevent infection. A cough also can be a symptom of a medical problem.
- Prolonged coughing can cause unpleasant side effects, such as chest pain, exhaustion, light-headedness, and loss of bladder control. Coughing also can interfere with sleep, socializing, and work.
- Coughing occurs when the nerve endings in your airways become irritated. Certain irritants and allergens, medical conditions, and medicines can irritate these nerve endings.
- A cough can be acute, sub acute, or chronic, depending on how long it lasts. An acute cough lasts less than 3 weeks. A sub acute cough lasts 3 to 8 weeks. A chronic cough lasts more than 8 weeks.
- When you cough, mucus may come up. Coughing helps clear the mucus in your airways from a cold, bronchitis, or other condition. Rarely, people cough up blood. If this happens, you should call your doctor right away.
- If your cough is a symptom of a medical condition, it may occur with other signs and symptoms of that condition. For example, if you have a cold, you may have a runny or stuffy nose. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, you may have a sour taste in your mouth.
- Your doctor will diagnose the cause of your cough using your medical history, a physical exam, and the results from tests.
- The best way to treat a cough is to treat its cause. However, sometimes the cause is unknown. Cough medicines usually are used only when the cause of the cough is unknown and the cough causes a lot of discomfort.
- No evidence shows that cough and cold medicines relieve a cough in children. These medicines can even harm children. Talk to your child's doctor about your child's cough and how to treat it.
- Follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you for treating the cause of your cough. Ask your doctor about ways to relieve your cough. Try to follow a healthy lifestyle. For example, if you smoke, quit. Try to avoid irritants and allergens that make you cough. Follow a healthy diet and be as physically active as you can.