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Dublin: 15°C Thursday 19 May 2022

Dry or chesty cough? Here’s what could be causing it - and how to tackle it today

Dr Laura Lenihan shares her expert advice.

Image: Shutterstock

AS WELL AS being irritating and sometimes painful, developing a cough now also brings the worry that it could be a symptom of Covid-19.

However, whatever the cause of your cough is – be it a cold, flu or something else – it’s likely you’ll want to relieve it quickly.

In fact, almost three in five people claim to treat their cold and flu coughs quicker now than they did before the pandemic, according to new research conducted by Coyne Research on behalf of Bronchostop. Reassuringly, the research also found that over eight in 10 people claim to be more conscious of spreading symptoms to others upon developing a cough over the past 12 months.

So how can you  identify which type of cough you have, and what’s the best way to treat it? We spoke to Galway GP Dr Laura Lenihan (@drlauragp) to find out. 

What can cause a cough?

A cough is “caused by irritation of the lining of the lungs or upper airways,” says Dr Lenihan. The most common causes are viral illnesses like the common cold or flu which can “cause coughs that last for up to three weeks or so,” she says.  

Other causes include asthma, smoking, or post-nasal drip, whereby the glands in your nose and throat produce extra mucus.   

shutterstock_1700807311 Source: Shutterstock

How can I identify which type of cough I have?

There are two types of cough – dry or wet – and they can be classified as acute (lasting less than three weeks) or chronic (lasting longer than eight or so weeks), says Dr Lenihan.

“A wet or productive cough is one where you bring up sputum or phlegm, and this tends to be due to a current infection,” she explains. “A dry cough does not bring up sputum or phlegm, and can feel more irritating or tickly in the throat. They tend to follow viral illnesses and can last for quite some time.”

How can I relieve and effectively treat a wet cough? 

With over one in two adults claiming to avoid people as much as possible when suffering from a cold and flu cough, according to findings from Coyne Research, a cough is something you’ll likely want to treat quickly. 

If the cough is wet and therefore likely caused by an infection, “this should be treated by visiting your GP,” says Dr Lenihan. Along with following your doctor’s advice, gargling with warm salt water may decrease mucus in the back of the throat and reduce the need to cough. There’s also the option to try a hot shower with lots of steam as this may help to moisten your upper airways and break up the mucus in your chest. 

shutterstock_784584649 Source: Shutterstock

What about a dry cough? 

When it comes to treating a dry cough, a simple solution can be effective, says Dr Lenihan. “For dry coughs, a teaspoon of honey can help soothe the throat,” she says. According to a study, the anti-inflammatory properties found in ginger may also help reduce coughing, as well as possibly reducing pain, making ginger tea an option that might be worth trying.

Other things Dr Lenihan recommends that may help relieve both types of cough include using a humidifier to put moisture back into the air, sucking on cough drops and drinking “lots of fluids and hot fluids, which can help soothe the throat if irritated”. 

While Dr Lenihan notes that “most of the time a cough will go away by itself over time,” it’s often not possible to wait it out – as anyone who’s ever been kept awake at night by an irritation in their throat knows. With this in mind, it may be helpful to be able to identify which type of cough you have early on so you can relieve and effectively treat it as soon as possible. 

Battling a cough? Always ask your pharmacist for advice.

Relieve any type of cough with Bronchostop Cough Syrup or Berry Flavour Cough Pastilles. 

Buttercup Bronchostop Cough Syrup and Berry Flavour Cough Pastilles contain thyme herb extract. These are traditional herbal medicinal products used for the relief of coughs associated with a cold, such as chesty, dry, tickly, irritating coughs and catarrh, exclusively based upon long-standing use. Always read the leaflet.

For more information about coughs, visit bronchostop.ie.

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