Coughing is your body's natural way of expelling an irritant, like germs and virus, in your lungs and throat. Coughing is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of an underlying health problem. If you are coughing for prolonged periods, it is best to consult your health professional for a proper diagnosis of its cause. It is only after the cause of your cough has been identified that you can be prescribed appropriate treatment.
Some causes of coughs
There are two types of cough: a productive cough with phlegm present and a dry or non-productive cough. Most coughs are commonly caused by:
- Viral infection: When a virus invades your airways, it may cause a condition that is known as a lower respiratory tract infection. Your body is built with an immune system that can detect the presence of a virus. The immune system works by causing your lungs to produce mucus that is meant to flush out the virus when you cough.
- Bacterial infection: When a viral infection does not go away on its own, complications may arise and bacteria may form in the lungs causing pneumonia or some other serious chest infection. A bacterial infection may be suspected when a cough does not go away after two weeks or if the color of phlegm is greenish or tainted with blood. If you experience a persistent cough, it is best to pay your health professional a visit for appropriate medical advice.
- Other causes: Your cough may also be due to smoking, allergies to dust, smoke, pollen, or chemical fumes, an asthmatic condition or in some cases, drastic weather changes. Even take into account those holistic virtues that prevail. Coughing could also be your way of wanting to be heard.
Home remedies for coughs
Generally, coughs that are caused by viral infections go away on their own without medication or antibiotic treatment. Your health practitioner may prescribe antibiotic treatment only when complications are present or when bacteria is detected in your phlegm. There are no known cures for viral infections. Your cough will subside as soon as the virus is eliminated from your system. In the meantime, you may try the following natural health remedies for your cough:s
- Rest your body: Oftentimes, lack of rest causes your body's immune system to break down. When this happens, your body may find it difficult to fight sickness or disease. One way to strengthen your immune system is to give your body the rest it needs. Turn out the lights or shut your windows and try to get as much undisturbed sleep as possible.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Drinking clear fluids will keep you hydrated and help flush out the virus that may have invaded your respiratory system. Eucalyptus tea is especially soothing.
- Get some steam: You may find it hard to expel phlegm when you cough because of sticky phlegm. You can loosen phlegm by inhaling deeply while having a steaming shower or by inhaling steam from a vaporizer. If you don't have a vaporizer at home, try boiling several cups of water with eucalyptus oil, and inhale the steam produced.
- Eat more citrus fruits: Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are rich in Vitamin C and are known to boost the immune system and help your body fight infection and sickness.
Supplements and Herbal Medicines
Your herbalist or natural health therapist is best qualified to advise you on the best natural therapies to ease coughs and chest infections. Coughs, colds and flu symptoms are often eased with the use of supplements and herbal remedies, including:
- Lactobacillus - for respiratory infections
- Echinacea - improves the immune system and helps shorten the duration of a cold
- Zinc - is known to protect against upper respiratory infections by improving the immune system
- Goldenseal and Barberry - stimulate the immune system, reduce fevers and fight infection.
- Peppermint - a great decongestant that also soothes and calms sore throats.
- Stinging nettle - can act as an expectorant and has been reported to have antiviral properties