A persistent cough can be one of the most annoying causes of insomnia both for the patient and their partner.
There are basically two sorts of cough – the chesty or productive sort, caused by a build up of excess mucus in the lungs, or the dry, tickly, unproductive sort, caused by an inflammation of the upper airways or throat.
Most coughs are triggered by a respiratory tract infection, usually caused by a virus, which usually come with various other symptoms. The common cold is the main offender, and will pass in one to two weeks without the need for medical intervention: you can treat your symptoms at home by taking over-the-counter remedies, drinking plenty of fluids and resting. Your sleep pattern will return to normal when your breathing is clear and the cough goes.
Infections of the lower respiratory tract affect the airways and lungs, and can be more serious. These commonly are bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy, influenza and tuberculosis. A more severe cough is the main symptom of a lower respiratory tract infection, and you may bring up phlegm and mucus. Other symptoms can be a tight feeling in your chest, increased rate of breathing, breathlessness and wheezing.
Your cough may last for several weeks after other symptoms have gone, and you may find the continual coughing makes your chest and stomach muscles sore.
If you are feeling very unwell, are coughing up bloody mucus and phlegm, or you have a pre-existing heart, lung, liver or kidney condition or another chronic health problem, it would be best to visit your GP.
No cough linctus works completely, and the only effective way to get rid of a cough is to treat the underlying ailment, so a cough suppressant may not be helpful. And although it may be keeping you awake, coughing is necessary to clear mucus from your lungs, so trying to suppress it could make the infection last longer.
Expectorants are designed to thin the phlegm and help make the chesty cough more efficient. A warm drink of honey and lemon can help relieve the discomfort caused by a dry, tickly cough, and sucking a square of very dark chocolate or drinking strong cocoa can ease a persistent cough.
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