A cough is a protective reflex action by the body to clear the throat of unwanted phlegm or an irritant substance such as crumb of food. Our body responds to inhaled irritant substances such as smoke or dust by coughing. So, it is advisable to avoid treating cough which is not painful, and which doesn’t keep you awake for long hours at time and produces sputum. On the other hand, a non-productive, painful, dry and irritating cough needs treatment. The sputum coughed out may be watery or sticky and thick; whitish or discoloured.
CAUSES OF COUGH
- Respiratory tract infection such as cold, pneumonia, e.t.c.
HOME TREATMENT OF COUGH
- Rest in warm and well ventilated room.
- Steam inhalation, mentholated or pure steam.
- Take plenty of water.
- Take cough medicines if the cough is painful and irritating and does not let you sleep.
WHEN TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL
- If there is blood in the sputum.
- If the sputum is greenish or yellowish in colour.
- If there is severe chest pain, shortness of breath or persistent fever.
The common cold also known as “cold” or “catarrh”, is an infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by many different viruses. The infection causes the swelling and inflammation of the lining of the nose (rhinitis) in particular and also the throat (pharyngitis) and the larynx or voice-box (laryngitis). The infection can be transmitted to other through the mucus of an infected person which is loaded with the viruses by breathing, coughing or sneezing.
SYMPTOMS OF COMMON COLD
- Inflamed nasal mucosa accompanied by nasal congestion and a runny nose (catarrh). The discharge is clear and runny at first, later becoming thicker and greenish-yellow, tending to block the nose. Sneezing is common.
- Sore throat, and cough which may be dry and irritating.
- Headache and a slight fever.
- General feeling of pains and lack of energy.
- Lack of appetite.
HOME TREATMENT OF COMMON COLD
- Rest in a warm, airy room.
- Take plenty of water and fruit juices to replaces fluid being lost and cool the body.
- Take aspirin or paracetamol in the recommended dosages to relieve the fever, headache and body pains.
- Sore throat may require the use of gargle or throat lozenges.
- Avoid smoking.
WHEN TO GO TO HOSPITAL
- If you cough up blood or discoloured spuctum.
- If you suffer chest pain or lung infection.
- If you develop earache or a runny ear.
- If breathing becomes difficult or noisy particularly in children.
MEDICINES FOR THE TREATMENT OF COUGH AND COLD
There are different products with different kinds of ingredients available for the treatment of cough and cold. These cough and cold remedies may contain either one or a combination of two or more of the following ingredients.
Antihistamines are used to relieve or prevent the symptoms of hay fever and other types of allergy. They also help relieve some symptoms of the common cold, such as sneezing and runny nose. They work by preventing the effects of a substance called histamine, which is produced by the body. Some examples of antihistamines contained in these remedies are: Chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, diphenylpyraline, pheniramine, promethazine, and tripolidine.
Decongestants such as ephedrine, phenylephrine, phenylpropanolamine (also known as PPA), and pscudeophedrine, produce a narrowing of blood vessels. This leads to clearing of nasal congestion. However, this effect may also increase blood pressure in patients who have high blood pressure.
To help relieve cough remedies contain either a narcotic (codeine, dihydrocodeine or morphine) or a non-narcotic (dextromethorphan) antitussive. The antitussives act directly on the cough centre in the brain. Narcotics may become habit-forming, causing mental or physical dependence, if used for a long time. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal side effects when you stop taking the medicine.
Guaphenesin works by loosening the mucus or phlegm in the lungs. Other ingredients used as expectorants include ammonium chloride, iodinated glycerol, ipecuanha, potassium guaiacolsulphonate, potassium iodine and sodium citrate.
INSTRUCTIONS AND WARNINGS
- To help loosen mucus or phlegm in the lungs, drink a glass of water after each dose of your cough or cold remedy.
- The extended release capsule or tablet forms of this medicine should be swallowed whole and not crushed, broken or chewed before swallowing.
- Most cough and cold remedies contain substances which may cause drowsiness. If affected, do not drive or operate machinery.
- If you are hypertensive or diabetic, consult your pharmacist or doctor before using cough or cold remedies which contain decongestants. This is because decongestants are capable of making your hypertension or diabetes worse.
STORAGE OF COUGH AND COLD REMEDIES
- Keep this medicine out of the reach of children. Overdose is very dangerous in young children.
- Store away from heat and direct light.
- DO not store the capsule or tablet form of this medicine in the bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or in other damp places. Heat may destroy the medicine.
- Keep the liquid form of this medicine from freezing. Do not refrigerate the syrup.
- Do not keep expired medicine or medicine no longer needed. Be sure that any discarded medicine is out of the reach of children.
COMMON SIDE EFFECTS OF COUGH AND COLD REMEDIES
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. The following side effects are commonly associated with the use of cough and cold remedies. They include drowsiness, dryness of the mouth, nose or throat, thickening of the mucus, dizziness or lightheadness, constipation, trouble in sleeping; unusual excitement or restlessness; unusual tiredness or weakness.