How to put an end to a stubborn cough

As you may remember, I’ve been pretty sick these past couple of weeks, and even though I’m doing better, I’m still not at a 100%. Anyway, a few days ago I had a coughing fit that had me basically puking all over myself (someone was burning leaves, and seeing how there’s no escaping the air you breathe, well, let’s just say that it got pretty scary). Needless to say that that was not an experience I wanted to repeat. In fact it was so bad that it had me googling the subject to see if a) I had to get myself to a doctor ASAP, and b) what I could do to avoid a repeat performance… especially the latter.

What I found when it came to the first one was that the cough sometimes sticks around for as long as eight weeks after the infection itself has cleared out, and that if the cough was the only problem I was dealing with, then going to the doctor was probably not the brightest of  ideas (something about the fact that a doctor’s office is  not a place you want to be in when your system is already somewhat compromised because it is a place where the bugs of all the different patients get to meet and greet). Okay, that made sense, and at least I knew that chances were that the problem wasn’t all that serious, that was definitely good news. Unfortunately when it came to the second one of my questions the answer was less than encouraging: the cough was likely to be a persistent one and it was unlikely to respond to treatment, thanks for playing. Needless to say that I was not what I wanted to hear. Still, I figured that maybe this was one instance in which maybe I could try a few home remedies combined with a bit of common sense.

In that regard the first thing I did was try to figure out how a post-viral (or post-infection) cough works. There are a couple of theories when it comes to the details, but in the end the problem seemed to boil down to the fact that irritation causes you to cough, coughing causes irritation and irritation causes you to cough some more. In other words, it sounded like what I needed was a way to break the cycle and give a chance for the irritation to subside. That gave me the key: the best way to stop a cough is to stop coughing.

Great, the problem is that coughing itself can be almost impossible to control.  So how did I go about it?

First, as soon as I felt a coughing fit coming I tried to fight it off by controlling my breathing.

Second, I kept by my side a water bottle filled with a mixture of water, honey and apple cider vinegar (one tablespoon of ACV per cup of water with honey to taste). The vinegar cuts through the phlegm while the honey soothes your throat. This bottle became almost like my conjoined twin and whenever I felt a coughing fit coming I would take a couple of sips. I also kept some antacids handy in an attempt to make things up to my poor, innocent, stomach (I know that lozenges sound like a gentler, to say nothing of better tasting, alternative to this ACV/honey mixture but in the middle of a coughing fit, or when one seems to be about to hit, I’d rather do without the choking hazard). The good news is that when I started feeling a little better (about a day later) I was able to switch to a more conventional tea with honey and lemon… sort of (I replaced the lemon with vinegar, though it was nowhere near as concentrated as the mixture I had been drinking before).

Third, I took three and sometimes even four steamy showers a day. While I was in the shower, after I had made sure that the pipes were as clean as they were going to get, and when a major coughing fit was less likely, I allowed myself to cough freely to allow whatever gunk remained in the system to be pushed out. I also forced myself to breathe deeply while I was in there.

Four, I tried to talk as little as possible and to breathe through my nose (not always an easy thing to do when you are still somewhat congested, but snot is there precisely to keep irritants out, so by bypassing the nose you are also bypassing that filter, and bypass that filter is something you probably don’t  want to do).

Fifth, if all else failed, I gave in to the inevitable and coughed, there’s no shame in that. I just tried to keep it to a minimum.

Now to the obvious question: did this solve the problem immediately? No,in fact it took a few days, and especially the first one of those days was more than a little uncomfortable (fighting the urge to cough almost constantly was something of a struggle at times, and I wasn’t always successful), but still the thing cleared  almost completely after only a few days. Given that when I started I was looking at something like eight weeks of misery, and how the official line was that I had no choice but to tough it out, I have to say that that three or four days was not too bad.

And now for the basic disclaimers: I am not a doctor, this was a pretty desperate gamble when all the official resources I found were saying that there was very little I could do, and the fact that it worked for me  doesn’t mean that it is going to work for you. This is also something I did to deal with a very specific kind of cough and after doing some research into what it was that I was likely to be dealing with. Remember that there are different kinds of coughs, that in quite a few instances the cough is there for a reason, so trying to suppress it can sometimes wind up doing more harm than good. Also, please keep in mind that if there is a reason why you are coughing up a lung that goes beyond the fact that you are stuck in a loop, then doing something like this is not going to get you anywhere. Still, if you are recovering from a cold or from the flu and seem to have been left with a stubborn cough that just won’t quit, then this approach may be worth a shot.

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