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Cough 101: What Is Coughing And How To Ease It

Cough 101: What Is Coughing And How To Ease It

We have all experienced coughing at one point or another in our lives. Some of us have even woken up in the middle of the night due to the constant need to cough, or even left a meeting or lecture until our coughing soothed a bit. So, it’s true what they say – coughing can be irritating and quite the bother.

Coughing is a natural reflex that helps in protecting the lungs by clearing them of irritants such as smoke and mucus. It can be caused by anything – those that are caused by colds and the flu generally only last about one or two weeks. But, if you see your cough is lasting longer than that, or you’re coughing up thick mucus, then make sure to contact your doctor. Contact your health provider also if you are experiencing symptoms such as weight loss, fever, chills, or fatigue.

Coughs can either be dry or chesty, meaning, unproductive or productive. Chesty coughs are usually productive since they produce mucus, and dry coughs, on the other hand, are unproductive since they don’t produce mucus. However, there are ways one can possibly ease their cough.

How to stop coughing?

There are things you should consider if you want to stop or ease your coughing. Although keep in mind, consulting with your doctor is always important. Below you can see what you can do to ease your coughing.

1. Drink water

Staying hydrated is extremely important when you’re experiencing coughing. Do not leave the fluids behind, because your body needs them! WebMD suggests that drinking fluids will help in thinning out the mucus in postnasal drip. Liquids also help in keeping the mucous membranes moist.

2. Honey and lemon

Take your hot beverages with honey and lemon and this way the mixture will serve as a cough remedy for a short period of time. You can opt for simply hot water, or choose your favorite tea.

3. Humidity

Humid air reduces irritation and also helps to break some congestion. What could work is a humidifier as well as a steamy bathroom.

4. Lozenges

Menthol cough drops can lower the cough reflex by numbing the back of the throat.

5. Spoonful of honey

A spoonful of honey can ease a cough periodically. Keep in mind, you should be careful not to give honey to children under the age of 1, because honey contains botulism spores that although are not harmful in adults, in children under 1-year-old it might cause botulism poisoning.\

lemon tea
Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Coughing at night – Why does coughing worsen during the night?

There are a few reasons as to why you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night or early morning because something has triggered your coughing. Well, some of them are as follows:

1. Gravity

When you stand up during the day you have a gravitational advantage which you lose when you lie down at night. In cases of post-nasal drip, the mucus will drain into your upper airway and will activate your coughing reflex. In order to solve this problem, make sure to sleep in an elevated position so the mucus won’t collect in the back of the throat. This is where plenty of pillows come in handy!

2. Room dryness

Dry air in the room might worsen a cough since dry air aggravates the nose and the throat. In these cases, you can opt for a humidifier.

– Do not forget to stay hydrated! 

How to ease a dry cough? Dry coughing treatment methods

Dry coughing does not bring up mucus, therefore it’s considered as unproductive coughing. Dry coughing feels like you have a tickle in the back of your throat that triggers the cough reflex. It tends to be difficult to control and occur because there is inflammation or irritation in your respiratory tract but no mucus to cough up. Although it is often caused by a cold or the flu, there are ways you can help in easing this cough.

– Honey tea

Mix 2 teaspoons with warm water or herbal tea. Drink the mixture once or twice a day. Do not give honey to children under the age of 1.

– Ginger tea

Add 20-40 grams of fresh ginger slices to a cup of hot water. Let it steep a few minutes before drinking and then you can add honey or lemon juice in order to improve the taste. Be careful though, because in some cases ginger tea might cause stomach upset or heartburn, according to Medical News Today.

– Gargle salt water

Saltwater reduces coughing by reducing the mucus in the back of the throat. Stir half a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water until it dissolves. Let it cool and begin to gargle it. Make sure to avoid giving salt water to children since they might not know how to gargle. Swallowing salt water can be dangerous.

– Thyme

What you can do is look for a cough syrup that contains thyme, or make thyme tea by adding 2 teaspoons of dried thyme into a cup of hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes before you strain it and drink it.

– Steamy showers

Hot and steamy showers help in loosening secretions in the nose, and they can help in easing coughs caused by a cold.

girl drinking tea
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

Types of cough

As mentioned previously, there can be many causes as to why you’re experiencing a cough. However, it’s important to distinguish the different types of cough there are.

1. An acute cough

Acute coughs are usually caused by a virus and may last up to three weeks. This is the type of cough that might be either productive (producing mucus) or unproductive (not producing mucus). For more on this, head over to our article on Types Of Cough: What You Should Know About Coughing.

2. A subacute cough

This cough will usually last between three to eight weeks. However, depending on the severity of symptoms, this cough may need to be evaluated by a doctor, as 60 percent of these kinds of coughs will resolve spontaneously.

3. A chronic cough

Chronic coughs will last more than eight weeks. Some of the causes are gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), postnasal drip from sinus infections or allergies, or chronic lung conditions including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, and interstitial lung diseases.

When to visit a doctor?

According to Mayo Clinic, visit your doctor if your cough does not go away after several weeks. Call your doctor if you or your child are experiencing the following symptoms:

Coughing up thick, greenish-yellow phlegm

Experiencing fever of more than 100 F (38 C)

If you have shortness of breath


Seek emergency care if you’re experiencing the following symptoms:


Difficulty in breathing or swallowing

Coughing up bloody or pink-tinged phlegm


Disclaimer: The contents of this article: text, graphics, images, and other materials contained are strictly for informational purposes only. The Content is NOT intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please ALWAYS seek the advice of a qualified health provider with all the questions that you have related to, or about, a medical condition.


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