Understanding your cough
When you have a cough, it can disrupt the best parts of your day, and worse, it can disrupt your deep sleep, the time during which your body heals and repairs itself throughout the night. So, while a persistent cough can be annoying, it is actually a good thing when it’s what we call a “productive” or wet cough that gets rid of mucous or other irritants.
Common causes of a cough
It’s important to remember that your cough isn’t an illness itself, but it is a symptom that something else is going on with you, and may result from many conditions, like a cold, the flu, asthma, or pneumonia. Sometimes you can get a cough from allergens that you’re not even allergic to, yet they still act as an irritant. You can try an over-the-counter medication, but sometimes that just doesn’t stop that endless tickle in your throat.
Treatment of a cough generally involves addressing the condition causing it. In the case of an acute infection like pneumonia, that might involve antibiotics, while an asthma-induced cough may respond best to antihistamines or inhalers.
It’s important to speak with a clinician about the cause of your cough before treating it. Many clinicians prefer not to suppress a productive cough because of how it helps clear the respiratory system. Over the counter cough medications work 2 different ways:
- Antitussives: help to suppress the urge to cough, which may help to get a decent night’s sleep.
- Expectorants: help make mucous easier to cough up by thinning it. In some cases, simply increasing fluid intake may have the same effect.