Respiratory Health 101: Coughs and Chest Infections

May 02, 2018

Coughing is the body’s natural way of clearing the airways of mucus and expelling irritants such as viruses and germs from the lungs and throat. Coughing is not a disease per se, but a reflex action or a symptom of an underlying health problem. Coughs usually clear up within three weeks and do not require any treatment. If coughs are persistent, it is best to consult a health professional, a general practitioner (GP), to have a proper diagnosis of the cause. It is only after the cause has been identified and diagnosed that an appropriate treatment can be prescribed.

What Causes Coughing

There are two types of a cough. One is a productive cough with phlegm present and the other one is a dry or non-productive cough. Coughs are commonly caused by:

  • Viral infection: When virus invades the airways, it may possibly cause a condition known as a lower respiratory tract infection. The immune system of the body is built to detect the presence of viruses. It works by causing the lungs to produce mucus meant to flush the virus out when coughing.
  • Bacterial infection: Complications may arise when a viral infection does not go away on its own and bacteria may form in the lungs causing serious infections such as pneumonia. A bacterial infection may be suspected if the phlegm color is greenish or is tainted with blood or when a cough does not go away after two weeks. If coughing is still persistent after two weeks, it is best to visit a health professional for an appropriate medical advice.
  • Other causes of coughs: Smoking, allergies to irritants such as dust, smoke, pollen, or chemical fumes, an asthmatic condition or in some cases, drastic changes in the weather. Even take into account those holistic virtues that prevail.

Home Remedies for Cough

Coughs generally caused by viral infections do not require medication or antibiotic treatment as they go away on their own. However, a health practitioner may antibiotic treatment when there are complications present or when bacteria is detected in the phlegm. Currently, there are no known cure for viral infections. Coughing will subside as soon as the virus is flushed out from the body. In the meantime, you may try the following home remedies for your cough:

  • Resting: Most of the time, lack of rest causes the immune system to break down. When this happens, the body may find it difficult to fight off diseases. One way to strengthen the immune system is to give the body the amount of rest it requires.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids: Drinking clear fluids helps the body to keep hydrated and help in flushing out viruses that have invaded the respiratory system. Drinking eucalyptus tea is soothing.
  • Getting some steam: There is difficulty in expelling phlegm when you cough because of sticky phlegm. You can loosen it by inhaling deeply while having a steam shower or by using a vaporizer to inhale steam. If there is no vaporizer present, you can boil several cups of water with eucalyptus oil and inhale the produced steam.
  • Eating citrus fruits: Citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges are rich in Vitamin C and are known to boost the immune system and help your body fight infection and sickness.

Supplements and Herbal Medicine for Cough

Herbal Medicine for Cough

A herbalist or a natural health therapist is the best person qualified in advising the best natural therapies to help ease coughs and chest infections. Symptoms of coughing, colds, and flu are often easy by using supplements and herbal remedies, including:

  • Lactobacillus - a good bacteria that helps in treating and preventing respiratory infections
  • Echinacea - an herb that helps improve the immune system and shorten the duration of a cold
  • Zinc - a mineral known to protect against upper respiratory infections by helping improve the immune system
  • Goldenseal and Barberry - an herb and a shrub that help in stimulating the immune system, reduce fevers and fight infection.
  • Peppermint - a great decongestant that also soothes and calms sore throats.
  • Stinging nettle - an herb that can act as an expectorant, a medicine that helps in clearing mucus from the airways, lungs, and bronchi, and has been reported to have antiviral properties.
Updated: 31 January 2019

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