One of the first steps in treating a cough is to identify if it is productive or dry. Dr Mehul Thakkar, a renowned pulmonologist practicing in Mumbai tells us.
Dry cough is one where there is no phlegm or no sputum production. Most commonly you see a dry hacking cough which is seen in viral infections of the nose and throat. In which one has a continuous cough with a feeling of something being stuck in the throat. Read more about the different types of cough.
The other type of cough is what is called a barking cough or croup,this is mainly seen in cases of laryngitis (swelling or infection of the larynx). The classic sign of cough due to this condition is pain in the throat and difficulty in breathing. Here are some tips to soothe a sore throat.
It can be caused due to the simplest of irritants
Dry cough may be caused due to a number of reasons, some of the common ones being a sore throat, inhaling an irritant like dust or smoke, asthma or an allergic reaction. Read more about asthma – symptoms, treatment.
There are other more serious conditions, like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), GERD (gastro oesophagal reflux disease) and in rare cases heart disease that could give rise to a dry cough. However, these are extremely rare occurrences. (What are COPD and GERD and could you be suffering from them?)
The right diagnosis is important
On visiting a doctor, he/she will most likely ask you about your symptoms and listen to the sound of your cough. He/she will then listen to your chest sounds to check for any congestion and check your throat for any infection or inflammation. In some cases you may need to undergo a chest X-ray in order for the doctor to make sure that there is no other underlying reason for the cough.
Home remedies and OTC medication can provide relief
Though finding the root cause of the cough is key to treating it completely, certain home remedies and OTC medication can give some symptomatic relief. (Read: How to get instant relief from cough)
Steam inhalation moistens the airways and helps relieve a sore and irritated throat. Other remedies include using lozenges to soothe the throat and OTC cough syrups specifically formulated to treat a dry cough. (Want natural remedies to help with your cough?)
In cases where the cough is due to an allergy or infection, one may be prescribed and antibiotics and anti-histamines respectively to relieve the associated symptoms. If the patient’s condition worsens it may be necessary to use a nebulizer, which is a method to help the patient breath easily by dilating the bronchioles.
Usually, when a cough lasts for longer than a week and over the counter medication do not help, it means you need a doctor. Here a person can develop complications due to the underlying conditions like inability to breathe, fainting, or even death.
Another complication is the physical nature of the cough itself. Sometimes the nature of the cough is so severe that it can cause vomiting, fractures specifically that of the ribs, muscle pain around the back and urinary or stool incontinence. Other uncommon problems include fainting or syncope and heart palpitations.