Cough is a frequent cause to see a doctor. Cough is a symptom not a disease and it might be due to various causes. It is important to know the cause before trying various treatments. First thing you must notice about cough is, if it is a dry cough or wet one. Cough is not always due to a lung disease, even a cardiac condition like congestive heart failure can lead to cough.
Common causes of dry cough:
- Asthma is one among them. One of the symptom which we see in Asthma is dry cough.
- Cough is also common with smokers which can be a symptom because of lung damage.
- Whooping cough is an irritating cough that often ends up in a high-pitched whooping sound as the child takes a breath.
- If you are allergic to pollen, dust and dander resulting in allergic rhinitis it may show dry cough as symptom.
- Certain lung diseases like interstitial lung disease can also cause dry cough.
- Medicines like ACE inhibitors( benazapril, captopril, enalapril, ramipril etc.) which are used in hypertension can cause dry cough as a side effect.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD) – Lung is not the only cause for cough. Even due to acid reflux some people show dry cough as the only symptom which is more during nights.
Common causes of wet cough:
- Common cold and flu which may be due to viral infections can cause wet or productive cough as one of its symptom.
- Smoking can also cause wet cough based on the severity of the lung damage.
- Acute bronchitis- The cough is often dry at first but later on becomes productive, with white, yellow or green sputum being coughed up.
- Pneumonia- It is the infection or inflammation of the air sacs which is common during winter and spring. Productive cough is one of its symptom.
- Tuberculosis- If your cough is more than 2 weeks, it is advised to get evaluated for TB which often produces sputum/phlegm.
- COPD- Often the term COPD is used to describe chronic bronchitis and emphysema, 2 progressive lung diseases which can occur by themselves or together. Both of them can cause wet cough.
- Asthma- although it is the common cause of dry cough, some set of people can show chronic wet cough as their symptom.
Treatment and Prevention:
- Treatment is always based on the cause and it is different for every cause. Cough will go away by its own if it is a simple one. You must pay attention, especially if it is a persistent cough, associated with fever or copious amounts of sputum.
- Antibiotics are used to treat the infection which is the cause of cough but it won’t treat the cough itself.
- Persistent cough like tuberculosis must be treated with Anti-Tubercular treatment(ATT). Completing the course without skipping the doses is important to prevent relapse.
- Drinking plenty of lukewarm water can reduce the irritation in the throat.
- If the cough is associated with throat pain, gargling with warm water twice daily can give some relief.
- To use a cough syrup you should know if your cough is a dry one or wet one. If you are suffering due to dry cough then you must take cough suppressants. Cough expectorants are used in people with wet cough.
- If smoking is the cause then cessation of smoking is the only treatment for it.
- Avoiding the trigger factors such a dust, pollen or any other allergen
- Avoid coming in contact with others who are sick. If you know you are sick, avoid going to work or school so that you do not infect others.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing, eating, going to the bathroom, or caring for someone who is sick.
- If you suffer with cough during pregnancy, it is important to consult your gynecologist before taking any cough syrup or treatment by your own is recommended.
- In infants and children, if cough is left untreated it can lead to hospital admission.
- Humidifiers are advised to alleviate symptoms by keeping the air moist.
- If medicines like ACE inhibitors are the cause for the cough (i.e if you notice a clear association of starting of cough with the starting of the medicine) it is advisable to consult your treating doctor for change of the drug.
- If your cough persists more than 2 weeks you must consult a physician for further evaluation.