While you can soothe the occasional cough and cold with over-the-counter medication, a persistent cough that just won’t ease up could signal bigger issues. Jagruti Verma tells you what a few of these are
Have you ever felt the need to reach for a box of tissues as soon as there’s a slight drop in temperature? Rising pollution and exhaust in our city, coupled with the fact that a good night’s sleep has become a luxury few can indulge in, makes matters worse. When was the last time you went in for a check-up, instead of resorting to over-the-counter solutions? No, we’re not talking about being jumpy about the little things, we’re simply recognising that your health often takes a back seat to your fast paced life. And, some neglected ailments we’re perpetually plagued with include the common cough and cold. Read on to see why you shouldn’t ignore a nagging cough and what it could be signalling.
Worrying makes it worse
Stress is never a good thing. How can you expect your body to heal quickly if you’re not giving it enough time to relax and recharge? Stress doesn’t only make things worse, it can also lead to a coughing fit! This is because being stressed out (or nervous) changes your breathing patterns and coughing appears to be an easier way for your throat to release the restriction that it feels at the time.
Lungs at stake
It’s no surprise that smokers are harming their lungs with every puff. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) occurs when the airflow to your lungs is restricted because they are unable to function properly. In this situation, your lung sacs become over inflated and the exchange of gases (such as pollution and other irritants) makes breathing difficult. If you cough a lot, experience shortness of breath or are a regular smoker, you need to modify your lifestyle.
If your cough increases at night and you are often struck by heartburn, you could be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. When this occurs, you experience acid reflux, which means that your stomach acid is flowing back into your food pipe, leading to throat irritation and a dry cough. This gets worse when you’re sleeping because it is easier for the acid to flow when you’re lying down.
Mucus production usually takes place in our nasal cavity and is swallowed (along with our saliva) without us realising it. However, excess mucus is more visible because it needs space to move out of your body, leading to a runny nose. When it flows into your throat, it leads to soreness and coughing. You may not be able to swallow the excess mucus due to bacterial infection, stress, old age or the internal swelling of your lungs.
Disease in Disguise
As a chronic lung disease, coughing can also be one of the symptoms of asthma. In fact, a dry cough (not accompanied by mucus) is a symptom of a type of asthma called cough-variant asthma. So, it’s advisable not to ignore a dry cough that has been persistent for a few weeks. What’s worse is when you cough up yellow or green tinged mucus or spit out blood, since these could be a symptom of lung diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis.