ASK THE PHARMACIST: WHAT CAN I TAKE FOR MY COUGH?
Even though most people dislike a coughing fit, for obvious reasons, most of the time it is a good sign of you clearing your body of any dust, bugs and phlegm. Read below for all the information you need to know on coughs from London Doctors Clinic's very own Superintendent Pharmacist, Dipali (that’s if you’re not too busy having a coughing fit).
Types of Cough
Dry/tickly - produces little or no mucus. A tickly or dry cough results from an irritant in the back of the throat which is normally cleared by the reflex of a cough.
Chesty/productive - phlegm is produced and a cough can bring up this phlegm to clear your airways.
The Top 8 Causes of Coughs:
Most coughs clear within three weeks and don’t require any treatment, but it is most important to treat the underlying cause.
1. Allergies such as hay fever
Allergies can be treating by avoiding allergens as well as taking antihistamines. Such allergy treatments can be bought over-the-counter or on prescription from your GP.
2. A flare up of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or chronic bronchitis
If you suffer from asthma then you should book an appointment at your GP surgery to receive a prescription for the appropriate inhalers such as salbutamol, which open up the airways, or a corticosteroid, which reduces inflammation, and to ensure you have the correct inhaler technique. COPD can be treated with bronchodilators to widen your airways.
Book an appointment with your GP to ensure you have the correct inhaler technique
3. An upper/ lower respiratory tract infection (RTI)
Upper RTI's can affect the throat, windpipe or sinuses, such as by a cold or flu.
Lower RTI's affect the lower parts of the respiratory tract, including the lungs or lower airways. Examples include acute bronchitis or pneumonia.
4. Inhaled dust or smoke
This should be avoided if possible.
5. Tobacco Smoking
If you are a smoker then you should consider quitting smoking. Smoking can cause yourself and others around you to cough so you will be benefitting others if you do quit.
You should consider stopping smoking to benefit you and those around you!
6. Post-nasal drip
This occurs when mucus drips from the back of the nose to the back of the throat. A post-nasal drip can be cleared with an antihistamine or a decongestant. This can be bought Over-The-Counter or on prescription from your GP.
7. The side effect of some medications
A common group of medicines which can result in the side-effect of a cough is ACE-Inhibitors. This is a blood pressure medication, most commonly taken in the form of Ramipril or Lisinopril. If this is the case then you can change this by speaking to your GP.
8. Acid reflux | Heartburn
Known medically as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), this is when acid comes up the oesophagus from the stomach, causing heartburn, a bitter taste, difficulty in swallowing and a cough.
GORD can be treated by losing weight or avoiding foods that cause this. As well as this, it can be treated with antacids to neutralise your stomach acid and medication to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. This can be bought from a pharmacy in the form of tablets, liquids and sachets.
There are many different cough remedies that can be bought Over-The-Counter from your pharmacy.
Chesty Cough Treatment
For a chesty cough, an expectorant such as Guaifenesin can be used; this is available by itself as a liquid or with other ingredients such as Paracetamol and a decongestant in the form of liquid, sachets and tablets.
Dry Cough Treatment
A dry cough can be treated with cough preparations that contain the cough suppressant, Dextromethorphan. As with chesty cough preparations, this can come by itself as a liquid, or with a drowsy antihistamine such as Diphenhydramine. This is to help a sufferer sleep as well as to dry up a runny nose. There are also preparations that contain Paracetamol as well as a decongestant to help relieve other symptoms in the case of a cold or flu which you can buy as liquid, sachets or tablets. Cough syrups containing honey and lemon are also good for a dry cough as well as throat lozenges.
There are no known drug interactions with Guaifenesin, however you should consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking this. Dextromethorphan interacts with some medicines such as anti-depressants (MAOI e.g. Selegine and SSRIs e.g. Escitalopram) so you should consult with your doctor and pharmacist before taking this.
When Should I See My GP For My Cough?
- You have a cough that has lasted longer than three weeks
- Your cough is very painful
- You are coughing up blood
- You are short of breath or wheezing
- You have a history of heart problems
- It is accompanied by night sweats or fevers at night
Please speak with your pharmacist or doctor if you have any concerns about taking cough medicines, and disclose your full medical history before purchasing Over-The-Counter painkillers. With LDC, you can book a private doctor appointment online or by telephone. We have eight private clinics across London (soon to be nine, with the arrival of our Paddington clinic coming soon!), so you should never be too far away when searching for "doctors near me".
By Dipali Khurana