It may finally feel like spring outside, but many of the staff at our office is being kept inside by a bout of colds and sinus and ear infections. As with any cold or head infection, the last symptom to disappear is usually the cough. Coughing is part of our natural immune defense system. Although it may feel like your body is trying to forcibly remove your lungs at times, a cough is actually designed to expel dust, chemicals, phlegm and other irritants or foreign matter from your respiratory tract. To effectively end your cough, you’ll need to treat the underlying cause, whether from an infection, allergen or other source. As your body heals, follow these tips to ease your coughing.
Don’t suppress your cough! Although it may seem polite to suppress your cough around other people, taking a cough suppressant or physically preventing yourself from coughing will only prolong your cough. Let the body work its magic.
Humidify. Dry living or working environments can make a cough worse. A humidifier moisturizes the air, which can help soothe throats and break up congestion underlying a cough. Cool-mist humidifiers are generally considered a safer option as the air from a warm-mist humidifier has the potential to burn if it comes in close contact with skin. (Cool-mist humidifiers are also less expensive and use less energy than their warm-mist counterparts.) Humidifiers are only beneficial if used properly, however. Be sure to clean out your humidifier every couple of days with a disinfecting solution.
Staying hydrated can help ease coughing. Water thins mucus, making it easier to break up and remove from the body. Photo By Rasmus Anderson/Courtesy Flickr.
Eat right. Certain foods encourage mucus production, which can increase the amount of phlegm your body produces. Avoid dairy products especially, and lay off the chocolate and processed, refined or “junk” food.
Drink up! It’s the most basic principle to follow when you’re sick: Stay hydrated. Water thins mucus secretions, helping to move all that gunk out of your respiratory system. Water can also help your immune system function properly. Drink a glass every two hours.
Heal with honey. Among honey’s many health benefits is its ability to soothe sore throats and suppress coughs. Most versions of homemade cough drops or cough syrup will call for this natural remedy, and a study at Penn State College of Medicine showed that honey reduces nighttime coughing in children with respiratory infections. Add a spoonful to a cup of hot tea or take it straight. Opt for raw honey, which has more medicinal benefits than processed honey.
Many herbs, such as peppermint, can suppress coughing and help remove phlegm from the body. Photo By Zach Bulick/Courtesy Flickr.
Hyssop: This member of the mint family can loosen phlegm and soothe mucus membranes. Infuse ¼ ounce of hyssop into boiling water to make a soothing tea.
Licorice soothes sore throats and naturally suppresses coughing. Licorice can interfere with other medications and should not be taken if you have high blood pressure, however.
Mullein: This member of the snapdragon family is a natural expectorant, meaning it helps clear your lungs of mucus.
Peppermint contains menthol, a common ingredient in many cough and cold remedies. Menthol works as a decongestant and expectorant, meaning it will help thin and remove mucus. Drink peppermint-infused tea or add three to four drops of peppermint oil to a steam bath for inhalation.