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Biz Health: The irritating cough

Everyone has suffered from cough at one time or another. It is one of the most common ailments known to man. Although it is general knowledge that coughing is one of the body’s ways of keeping the throat and air passages clear, many people don’t know exactly what a cough is.

So what then, is a cough? A cough can be defined as an abrupt, often repetitive, convulsive constriction of the thoracic cavity, resulting in the forceful expulsion of air from the lungs, and is usually followed by a distinctive sound. Cough suffer- ers risk a diminished quality of life due to the incapacitating and socially distressing nature of the condition.

Coughs can be categorised into two groups: dry (unproductive) and wet (productive).

Lasting less than three weeks, dry cough is a common symp- tom of allergies and colds, but can also be associated with more serious conditions such as congestive heart failure and pneumonia. The first step towards treating coughs is to deter- mine whether the cough is caused by either one of these life-threatening conditions or the common cold, lower respira- tory tract infection or a worsening of a pre-existing condition like asthma. If the cough is found to be caused by the common cold, an antihistamine and a decongestant will then be prescribed.

Wet (productive) cough is often caused by asthma, bacterial sinusitis or respiratory tract infections. In order to diagnose such as a cough, it must be determined whether the cough is a result of a respiratory infection. If the cough is not post- infectious, it can then be treated in the same way as a chronic cough.

Chronic cough is often caused by more than one condition. It is diagnosed with the help of medical histories, physical exami- nations and chest X-rays. Surprisingly, most chronic cough sufferers are healthy. Some of the most common causes of chronic cough are asthma, gastroesphageal reflux disease (GERD) and upper airway cough syndrome.

Generally, the use of cough mixture is one of the most common remedies for coughs. While dry coughs can be treated with antitussives, which act to control the body’s urge to cough, wet coughs should be treated with expectorants, which act to control the body’s urge to cough. Expectorants help to dislodge mucus from the respiratory tract.

In view of this, it is therefore important not to use generic type of cough mixture and hope for relief. Instead, one must be careful to select the right cough mixture to treat the cough. Avoid taking any drug without consulting a pharmacist or if you are suffering other health conditions. If symptoms become worse, consult a physician. And always remember to keep your medicines safely away from children.

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