Posted on 9th November 2022 at 07:38
With the cooler and damper weather at this time of year comes an upsurge of all things respiratory, whether chronic or acute. And it’s one of these we’re going to focus on today.
While it’s usually thought of as an acute, in other words a short term irritation – and “irritation” describes it very well (!) – it can also be linked to an ongoing chronic condition.
So, what are we talking about?
Coughs. Ah, now the “irritation” comment makes sense!
Coughs are a reflex action, so one we have little control over, as anyone who’s tried to stifle a cough knows. It helps clear the airways – the Throat and Lungs – of anything that shouldn’t be there. Not only food or drink that’s “gone down the wrong way” but also mucus, catarrh and irritants such as dust, smoke or pollens. And it’s the latter group we’re going to focus on today.
While Coughs may be categorised in many different ways – and have many different names (!) – we find that a couple of simple questions are the easiest way to work out what may be going on and the best approach.
First, is it a dry or wet Cough?
In other words, is it a dry tickly Cough OR is it a wet Cough producing mucus or catarrh?
And it doesn’t matter how much the mucus or catarrh “moves.” Whether it’s completely brought up, “crackles” or stays put.
Which leads us neatly on to the supplementary question that children love and adults hate.
If it’s a wet Cough, what colour and consistency is the end result? Aside from making people squirm (!) this question provides some very useful information. Whether there’s an infection and, if so, how deep set it may be. The options range from clear and runny through white to yellow, green and then brown. We’re sure you’ve seen this in action for yourself (!), but if you need a quick reminder click here.
Second, when did it start?
Perhaps it’s a recent one and can be clearly linked to a Cold or Flu. So, most likely, related to a viral infection or a bacterial one which came in on the back of it while the Immune System was low.
Interestingly, in the last few years, we’ve noticed that many people are being left with an irritating dry Cough for months after having a viral infection. And “yes” we do have a theory about this but it’s best discussed with Clients on a one to one basis…
Alternatively, it may be linked to another ongoing health condition such as Asthma, Emphysema or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Or a more seasonal one such as Hayfever, Allergic Rhinitis or other Allergy.
Then there are poor lifestyle choices, with smoking coming top of the list. And for those who still think that e cigarettes are a “safe” and “more healthy” option, think again. Evidence is mounting that they are just as damaging as cigarettes…
Other possible triggers include dust and air pollution – whether inside or outside – particularly for those working in dust rich environments over the longer term such as in mining, asbestos and other industrial processes.
So, what next?
For acute, short term Coughs, generally the same approach as for Colds works well. We’re sure you know what it is but if you need a quick reminder, click here. In most cases, the Cough will clear itself in a few days – or a couple of weeks at most.
For more chronic, long term Coughs, identifying and treating the underlying cause is key. And, “yes” we know this is stating the obvious, but you’d be amazed by how often they are treated as completely separate issues with all too predictable results…
This also means addressing any poor lifestyle choices that may be playing their part, in other words, stopping smoking or being in a dust rich or polluted environment.
In addition, there’s one very simple and traditional way to help soothe Coughs, that works well for both acute and chronic Coughs. Not only does it help to open up the airways – making it easier to expel any mucus or catarrh – but also “soothes” the inflamed mucus membranes lining the Throat and Lungs. It’s steaming and very simple to do.
Simply fill a large bowl with freshly boiled water and then breathe in all that lovely steam, ideally with a towel over your head to maximise the effects. It’s best done sitting down, with the bowl on a table to keep you – and all that very hot water – safe. Do this for a few minutes, ideally, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. You can also add Olbas Oil or an essential oil such as Lavender or Tea Tree to the water to increase its effects.
As always, a little common sense is needed, so only do it for a few minutes and if you feel wobbly or dizzy then STOP!!! And, having opened the airways, stay inside in the warm after doing it. Don’t go outside or get cold, immediately undoing all that good work.
Finally, whether the Cough is an acute or chronic one, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs that some professional advice is needed:
• Any Cough lasting more than 3 weeks
• Bringing up blood
• The Cough causing chest pain, breathing difficulties or shortness of breath
• Any other symptoms that have appeared at the same time such as lumps in the neck, a persistent change in the voice or unexpected weight loss
In the vast majority of cases, Coughs can be easily treated at home and will clear themselves quite quickly. However, if you are concerned, do take some professional advice.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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