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Coughing is a reflex action of the body that helps in clearing the airway of any irritants. Generally, the cough does not cause any discomfort and is healthy. Therefore, treatment is only required if the symptoms cause uneasiness or interfere with your sleep and daily activities.
Home Remedies for Cough
Various ingredients that are readily available in your kitchen can help relieve the symptoms of a cough.
1. Consume honey
Honey can be used to lower the frequency and severity of cough, thereby aiding uninterrupted sleep. Additionally, it does not have any side effects. (1)
How to use:
- Boil a mug of water and mix the juice from half a lemon into it. Add 1–2 teaspoons of honey, and consume this drink while still warm.
- For children above 1 year of age, give them a 2.5 ml dose of honey before bedtime. (2)
Caution: Refrain from giving honey to children younger than 1 year to avoid the risk of botulism. (3)
Consumption of honey is generally more efficacious than no treatment for reducing the frequency of cough.
2. Use licorice
Licorice root boiled in water is often used to improve cough and bronchial problems. Licorice lozenges are found to be effective in lowering post-operative sore throat and cough among smokers. (4)
Additionally, gargling with licorice significantly lowers the incidence of sore throat and decreases mucus production to help treat cough. (5)
How to use:
Boil half a teaspoon of licorice in one cup of water for ten minutes and consume the warm tea.
Licorice is popular for its expectorant and antitussive properties which can help improve cough and other bronchial symptoms.
3. Drink coffee
The instant coffee powder obtained from Coffea arabica beans can act as an antitussive and cough suppressant, depending on the dose. (6) Additionally, coffee with honey can be employed as an alternative treatment for persistent post-infectious cough. (7)
How to use:
Add 1 teaspoon coffee and 1 teaspoon of honey in a cup of warm water, and consume this drink to help relieve cough symptoms.
The use of instant coffee powder help suppress cough, especially when taken along with honey.
4. Use marshmallow root
The marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) has been long used for treating the symptoms of dry cough. (8)
A study suggested that a combination of A. officinalis and other plant extracts can be used for treating respiratory ailments such as sore throat and cough. (9)
How to use:
Add ¼ cup of marshmallow root in a pint-sized jar, and fill it with lukewarm or cold water. Allow it to stand for four hours, strain the liquid, and consume this drink once a day.
Marshmallow infused in lukewarm water can help improve the symptoms of dry cough.
5. Consume apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been anecdotally used to treat cough for long. Moreover, using ACV along with honey in teas improves its efficacy. However, scientific research is required to establish the use of this remedy.
How to use:
Mix one tablespoon of ACV and 1 tablespoon of honey in one cup of hot water and consume.
Caution: Avoid the use of this remedy if you are allergic to ACV.
6. Try thyme
Thyme has various active constituents, such as thymol, which possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, spasmolytic, and antioxidant properties that can help improve a cough. (10)
How to use:
Boil a few thyme leaves in a cup of water to make a tea. Add one teaspoon of honey and consume. There are also many thyme extract-based medications available for treating cough.
7. Drink ginger-lemon tea
The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger, along with the taste of lemon make this tea an effective remedy for cough symptoms.
How to use:
Add one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger to one cup of hot water and allow to stand. After ten minutes, strain the tea and add one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and honey or sugar to sweeten the tea.
8. Gargle with warm saltwater
Gargling with warm saltwater helps remove mucus and soothes the throat.
How to use:
Mix one teaspoon of salt in one cup of lukewarm water and use it for gargling. Repeat this remedy up to three times a day.
9. Use peppermint leaves
Peppermint is generally used to help treat cold symptoms. While there is no scientific evidence to support the use of peppermint leaves for cough, it has been used anecdotally in the form of tea or a steam bath for extracting the benefits of menthol.
10. Apply menthol vaporub
Vapor rub is popularly used to help relieve the symptoms of cough. OTC menthol rubs can be applied to the chest or feet for relief.
11. Consume probiotics
While not directly effective on cough, probiotics can help treat the underlying conditions. Additionally, probiotics like Lactobacillus are found to help prevent colds and flu. (11)
Probiotic consumption can also lower the incidence of respiratory tract infections in children. (12)
Self-Care Tips to Relieve Cough
The following tips and at-home treatments can help prevent and treat cough:
1. Stay hydrated
Consuming ample liquids, especially water, helps thin out the mucus, enabling easy expulsion. Additionally, warm fluids such as tea, broth, and lemon juice give a soothing effect.
Intake of liquids and fluids is considered to be a key factor for treating cough and colds in children. (13)
2. Elevate your head
Using extra pillows to elevate your head helps reduce cough while sleeping.
3. Use cough drops
Sugar-free hard candies and cough drops can help with a dry cough by giving a soothing effect to the throat.
4. Take hot showers
Steamy hot showers can help in loosening the mucus to aid decongestion. (14) A room humidifier can be another option.
Deep breathing techniques can help relax the body and relieve the discomfort associated with cough.
6. Perform mild exercises
Mild exercises help open the airways. However, avoid heavy exercises as they can aggravate the problem.
7. Get proper rest
It is important to take breaks, sleep properly, and take naps to allow your body to recover.
8. Eat well
Consuming foods such as citrus fruits and herbs such as ginger and cinnamon helps reduce cough and colds. It is advisable to consume small portions frequently rather than a few large meals.
These lifestyle changes could help reduce the risk of cough:
1. Avoid aerosols
Aerosol sprays such as deodorants, hairsprays, and cleaning agents often contain throat irritants.
2. Maintain good hygiene
It is vital to wash your hands frequently in the flu and cold season to prevent infection. Additionally, make sure to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
3. Use a humidifier
A cool-mist humidifier can be used at night to avoid dry cough.
4. Quit smoking
It is essential to avoid smoking and secondhand smoke since cigarette smoke causes airway inflammation that produces mucus, thus causing a cough. (15)
Also, smoking increases the risk of cough and related diseases in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, etc. (16)
5. Stay away from infected people
Maintain distance from people who you believe may have influenza or colds to prevent getting infected.
6. Avoid touching your face
Refrain from touching your nose, eyes, or mouth as your hands may have picked up germs from contaminated surfaces.
7. Do not take cough-inducing medicines
Ask your doctor to prescribe a different drug if a certain medication is causing the cough.
8. Avoid allergens
It is necessary to avoid things you are allergic to in order to prevent cough.
Most-Asked Questions About Cough
How can you stop coughing fits immediately?
A coughing attack may develop at any point in time, causing difficulty in breathing. In such cases, it is recommended to breathe only through the nose every 8 seconds. Additionally, you may consume a spoonful of honey or drink clear warm fluids if available at that time.
Why does cough worsen at night?
When you lie down, the nasal passages become obstructed, resulting in mouth breathing. The mouth breathing causes throat dryness, inducing coughing, and makes the throat more susceptible to other irritants.
Additionally, when you lie down, mucus from the nose and sinuses drains into the throat or airways (post-nasal drip) because of gravity and the normal cleaning functions of the nose and sinuses. This mucus may cause throat irritation and cough.
Also, while lying down, the acid from your stomach travels up the esophagus and reaches your throat. This irritates and burns the throat, thus inducing cough.
Taking preventive steps to avoid cough and colds is highly recommended and useful. For this, one should get proper rest, consume immune-boosting foods such as fruits and vegetables, and practice proper hand hygiene.