Wondering how to ease a cough?  A lingering cough can be irritating and exhausting for the sufferer and indeed the whole family so here I look at self help measures including homeopathic remedies.

Why do we cough?

First though let’s consider why the cough occurs in the first place.  A cough is a means of expelling catarrh or other irritants from the throat or air passages.  It is a protective mechanism to stop foreign bodies or mucus accumulating in the lungs which could lead to more serious infection.

Does a cough need treating?

If mucus is being cleared out and the patient is feeling better as a result, there may be no need to treat a cough at all- just let it run its course.

However, if the cough is dragging on or if it doesn’t seem to be resulting in clearing mucus out, it is appropriate to try some self-help measures to move things on.  I discuss these below.

When to see a doctor

There are a few situations in which NHS advice would be to see your doctor:

  • you’ve had a cough for more than 3 weeks
  • your cough is severe or rapidly worsening or causing difficulty breathing or marked chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • other symptoms that concern you
  • you have a chronic disease affecting your heart or lungs or which results in a weakened immune system

Practical self-help tips for simple coughs

  • keep the atmosphere moist, especially in centrally-heated homes, by using a humidifier or just putting bowls of water near radiators/ heaters.
  • go one step further for croupy, barking coughs and try a steam inhalation or just sit in a steamy bathroom.  (Shut the door and window and turn on a hot shower or run a hot bath).
  • some people respond better to cool, fresh air so if the above measures don’t help, try sitting by an open window or going outside for a short walk.
  • add garlic to food and keep the diet light – vegetable broths for example.
  • avoid milk and dairy products which can promote the formation of mucus
  • warm water with honey & lemon is a soothing drink for anyone aged 2 or older.  A bit of  root ginger is a good addition.
  • for night coughs, use an extra pillow to raise the head or for young children, prop up the head of the cot.

My top 8 Homeopathic Remedies for Coughs

There are many possible homeopathic remedies to relieve coughs and I describe 8 of the commonest below.  To choose the most appropriate one, take note of the detailled symptoms of the cough.  Questions to consider includeWhat makes the cough worse and what relieves it?  What else is different from normal for the person with the cough?  Then look through the descriptions below and chose the one that matches best.  First decide if the cough is dry (tickly with no phlegm being produced) or loose (wet-sounding, rattly, mucusy, productive) and then look at the remedies in the appropriate list.

Dry coughs

bryonia
persistent tickly cough, with stabbing pain making the patient press on his chest to ease discomfort
better for: keeping still
worse for: moving, breathing deeply and going into a warm room
general symptoms: patient is irritable and thirsty for large amounts

phosphorus
tight, exhausting cough with hoarseness and a burning feeling in the chest
better for: reassurance, company and massage
worse for: talking and in the morning and evening
general symptoms: patient is sensitive and craves very cold water

spongia
rasping, croupy cough that sounds like sawing wood
better for: warm food and warm drinks
worse for: dry, cold wind and touching the throat
general symptoms: patient is distressed

drosera
coughing in violent fits and with a sense of something tickling the throat
better for: fresh air
worse: as soon as the patient lies down
general symptoms: cough may end with vomiting or nosebleed

Loose coughs

pulsatilla
well-established cough with yellowy-green phlegm, may be dry in the morning and loose in the evening
better for: fresh air, sympathy and attention
worse: in a stuffy room, in the late afternoon and evening
general symptoms: patient often needy and/or tearful

ant-tart
wet, rattly cough with lots of mucus that is hard to cough up
better for: being upright
worse: after eating or when lying down, in warm rooms
general symptoms: patient is miserable or irritable

kali-bich
cough with a metallic sound and mucus that is profuse, sticky or stringy and hard to clear
better for: managing to cough out mucus
worse: in the small hours of the night, from stooping
general symptoms: often needed at the end of a cold accompanied by congestion in sinuses or chest

hepar sulph
barking or rattling cough with thick yellow phlegm
better for: wrapping up warmly, humidity
worse: cold draughts, at night
general symptoms: chilly and irritable

For general advice on buying and taking remedies and when to consult a homeopath, see my post on Treating it Yourself with Homeopathy.

If would like in depth help with a cough or other illness then please get in touch or make an appointment (either at my clinic in Forest Row or by Skype wherever you are). Existing patients and those with short queries are welcome to use my recent minor illness phone appointment option.