Coughing: The Good and the Bad

It’s that time of year when everyone around you seems to be coughing and blowing their nose. It can make you want to hide in a bubble until the end of the season. Your body has some interesting ways of responding when you are sick. Pathogens and other irritants prompt your body to expel things that don’t belong. Coughing is one way that your body works to clear congestion.

The Causes

A buildup of mucous can be the cause of a cough. Your body needs to get this out to protect your lungs and airway. These types of coughs usually accompany a cold or flu. Coughs need to be productive to be useful, however. It is actually good if you see mucous coming up. In many cases, coughs are dry or do not help to remove congestion. These coughs may be present due to allergies or asthma. Different types of coughs are treated differently. An asthma cough may be accompanied by tightness in the chest and low oxygen levels.


A productive cough is already doing the job of taking care of your body. An illness is causing the production of mucous. Your body is removing it for you. Taking medication to stop this type of cough is counterproductive. You need to simply stay hydrated to help the mucous thin and clear faster. Medications meant to thin mucous can be helpful, however.

A cough that persists due to allergies or asthma is often treated with daily allergy medication. Allergies and asthma of exist together, making treatment complicated. These coughs are usually dry and very persistent, offering no relief for hours. Inhalers are used in many cases to prevent these episodes in asthmatic patients. Emergency inhalers are used when the cough gets out of control.

Cough Medications

There are two main types of cough medications commonly found in pharmacy. These are expectorants and suppressants. They do very different things. Expectorants are meant to thin the mucous, helping you to cough it up easier. The main ingredient in these is guaifenesin. Suppressants are meant to limit the cough. Dry coughs, not caused by asthma, may respond to this treatment. Often a lingering cough after a cold is dry and due to an irritated throat. Suppressants have been accompanied by many warnings are not to be used without proper advice from a doctor. Coughing needs to happen in many cases to avoid further infection of the lower respiratory system. Asthma related coughs are an important warning that inhalers or other medical treatment is necessary. Suppressing these types of coughs could be dangerous.

Coughing has an important purpose for your body. It is an amazing protective mechanism that helps to expel bad things from your body. Productive coughs can help you avoid further illness. Allergies and asthma are also signaled by coughing, giving a warning that something is not right. Listen to your body when a cough comes on. Treatment is best done under a doctor’s care, so that the proper diagnoses can be made.

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