- Effective treatments are available to lessen coughing severity and duration.
- There are simple remedies and OTC medications for a cough caused by a cold, the flu, or allergies.
- If your symptoms last longer or worsen, seek a doctor’s advice for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Having a good night’s sleep when you are coughing can be very difficult. It disrupts sleep and makes you feel frustrated.
There are different conditions and factors that can cause coughing: viruses like colds and flus, allergies, bacterial infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, asthma, smoking, post nasal drip, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), certain medications such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), cystic fibrosis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and whooping cough.
Talk to your doctor if you are not sure why you are coughing so they can order lab tests, scope tests, chest X-rays, and CT scans. You can even ask for a whooping cough vaccination.
And if you are a smoker, did you know that if you quit smoking, your coughing can lessen in as little as 8 weeks?
Different types of cough
1. Wet Coughs
Wet coughs produce excessive mucus in the chest, throat and mouth.
To Calm A Wet (Productive) Cough:
- Elevate your head and neck with a stack of pillows but not too much. Avoid sleeping on your back or side as mucus accumulates in these areas.
- Try using expectorants to make mucus in your airways thin. The US FDA only approved the expectorant guaifenesin (brands: Robitussin DM and Mucinex). Guaifenesin is also safe and effective for those with cold or bronchitis.
- Swallow a little honey. 1 ½ tsp of honey can help children sleep. But those under 1 year old are advised not to consume honey because of the risk of botulism according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Drink a warm beverage. Loosen mucus and soothe irritated throats with warm beverages like broths, herbal teas, and warm water with honey and lemon an hour before sleeping.
- Take a hot shower. The steam loosens up mucus and clears the airways like your chest and sinuses.
2. Dry Cough
Asthma, GERD, ACE inhibitors, postnasal drip, and upper respiratory infections commonly cause dry cough, although whooping cough can also cause it.
To soothe a dry cough:
- Pop a lozenge before lying down. Lozenges come in different flavors like menthol to open up sinuses and may contain Vitamin C and other medications to soothe sore throat. These are not advisable for children as lozenges can be a choking hazard.
- Decongestants dry up the post nasal drip that leads to coughing at night. Children below 12 years old are not allowed decongestants as it may cause serious complications.
- Take antitussives or cough suppressants. This blocks the cough reflex and prevents coughing.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Drinking up lubricates the throat and prevents irritants and other coughing triggers. Avoid frequent bathroom trips by stopping drinking at least an hour before sleeping.
3. Ticklish Cough
Easing a ticklish cough:
- Use a humidifier but do not over-dampen the air. Do not let your room be too dry or too damp to avoid irritants and allergens. Recommended room humidity level should be at 50% in your hygrometer.
- Keep your bedding clean. Once a week, wash sheets, pillowcases, blankets, and mattress covers in hot water (130 degrees F or 54.4 degrees C) or higher as recommended by the American Academy of Asthma, Allery, and Immunology.
- Talk to your doctor first before trying oral antihistamine as they block cough stimulators like histamines or acetylcholine.
See a doctor if: your cough has been going on for more than 3 weeks, there’s an increased amount of phlegm, when it turns from dry to wet cough, you are wheezing, you have swollen ankles, you have shortness of breath, vomiting, or fever.
See a doctor immediately if: you have chest pains, cough up blood or pink-tinged mucus, and have trouble breathing.