Health & Wellness Services

No Title

Section I–Common Health Problems - Coughs

HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

Table of Contents

 Section I–Common Health Problems

Previous Topic | Next Topic

Coughs

“The air in the dorm is so dry, that it
makes a lot of us cough at night. We find that a cheap
humidifier or even a large bowl of water in the room
adds enough moisture to relieve those nightly
coughs.”

Rachael G., Cornell University

Coughing clears the lungs and airways.
Coughing is only a symptom, not the problem.

Signs & Symptoms

There are 3 kinds of coughs:

Productive. This brings up mucus or phlegm.
Nonproductive. This is a dry cough.
Reflex. This is a cough that comes from a problem somewhere else, like the ear or
stomach.

Causes

Tobacco smoke
Dry air
Infections. Examples are bronchitis, colds,
and the flu. (See “Colds & Flu” )
Allergies and postnasal drip
Asthma

Other causes include having something stuck
in your windpipe and acid reflux from the stomach
that comes with heartburn. Coughing can also be a symptom of
a medical condition, such as
asthma.

Treatment

How to treat your cough depends on what kind it is. Treat the cause and
soothe the irritation. Stay away from smoking and secondhand smoke. Smoke
hurts your lungs and makes it harder for your body to fight an infection.

Questions to Ask

With coughing do you have signs of severe
allergic reaction
?
  • A hard time breathing or swallowing
  • Severe swelling all over, or of the face, lips, tongue, and/or throat
  • Obstructed airway
  • Wheezing
  • Dizziness, weakness

With coughing, do you have any of these problems?
  • Trouble breathing and/or you are not able to say more than 4 to 5 words between breaths
  • Fainting
  • You cough up true red blood.

Do you have a very sudden onset of coughing from inhaling a small object?

With a cough, do you have any of these problems?
  • An itchy, red splotchy rash
  • A fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Your chest hurts only when you cough and the pain goes away when you sit up or lean forward.
  • You cough up green, yellow, or bloody-colored mucus.
  • You lose weight for no reason, feel tired, and sweat a lot at night.

 
Does your cough last for more than
2 weeks without getting better?

 

Self-Care

For Coughs that Bring Up Mucus:
Drink plenty of liquids, such as
water, hot tea, and fruit juice.
Use a cool-mist vaporizer in your room.
Take a shower. The steam can thin mucus.
Take an over-the-counter expectorant or
cough medicine containing guaifenesin.
Don’t smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke.


For Coughs that Are Dry:

Drink liquids. Have warm tea,
chicken soup, etc.
Suck on cough drops or hard
candy.
Take an over-the-counter cough
medicine that contains dextromethorphan. Take only as directed.

 


Liquids help loosen
mucus and soothe a
sore throat.


©2005,
6th edition. American Institute for Preventive Medicine
All rights reserved.
The content on this website is proprietary.
YOU MAY NOT MODIFY, COPY, REPRODUCE, REPUBLISH, UPLOAD, POST, TRANSMIT,
OR DISTRIBUTE, IN ANY MANNER, THE MATERIAL ON THE SITE.

December 08, 2005