Everyone knows the struggle of a cough that won’t go away. It keeps you from sleeping, causes soreness in your chest, and makes even simple tasks seem like a daunting chore. Luckily, coughs caused by an illness like a cold or the flu disappear completely when the sickness runs its course. But if you suffer from COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a chronic cough can last much longer.
Persistent coughing is a common symptom of COPD. People with this disease often have chronic bronchitis or emphysema, both conditions that cause airway irritation and excess mucus. While irritating, a COPD cough serves an essential purpose by loosening and expelling this mucus to keep the airways clear. For this reason, it’s not recommended that COPD patients use over-the-counter cough medications to suppress a constant cough.
However, if your cough is keeping you up at night or interfering with your daily life, you may feel desperate for relief.
Here are a few easy tips to help you calm your cough quickly and safely.
Stop Smoking. If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your COPD – and your health – is to stop immediately. Beyond the well-documented health effects, smoking dries out your airways which causes the body to produce excess mucus.
Stay Hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids thins and loosens respiratory mucus, making it easier to cough up. Increasing your fluid intake may increase your productive or “wet” coughing temporarily but will ultimately clear the airways and reduce your body’s urge to cough.
Use a humidifier. Like drinking plenty of water, adding moisture to the air you breathe with a cool-mist humidifier helps loosen mucus and soothe irritated airways. Add a few drops of menthol to your mist for some extra soothing relief!
Try warm tea and honey. Hot drinks soothe irritated airways and loosen mucus, and honey has been shown to be nearly as effective as OTC medications in calming a cough. Mix a spoonful of honey into a cup of warm caffeine-free tea for fast (and yummy) cough relief.
Stay upright. When you lie flat, irritants and mucus pool in the back of your throat and cause the urge to cough. Stay in an upright position as much as possible, and add a few extra pillows to your pile at night to calm your cough and get some much-needed rest.
Controlled coughing. All coughs are not created equal. Explosive or uncontrolled coughing fits are not effective at clearing excess mucus from the lungs and they can lead to spasms in the airway. When the need to cough comes, try controlled coughing techniques to save energy and better loosen and expel mucus.
Speak to your doctor. If your cough is worse than usual or your mucus is thick or darkly colored, you may be having a COPD exacerbation or an underlying respiratory infection. Make an appointment to speak to your doctor about any new or worsening coughing. They may prescribe medications such as a bronchodilator or inhaled corticosteroid to relax airways and control coughing.