How to Control a Coughing Attack
4 tips to quiet a cough that won’t quit
Any number of things can trigger a coughing attack — a stressful occurrence in which a cough just won’t let up for several minutes: A cold, sinus infection, allergies, dust and swallowing liquid or food the wrong way can all contribute to an intense coughing episode.
Here, effective tips to help quiet a cough that won't quit. Plus, signs you should seek immediate medical attention for a cough.
When a cough comes on suddenly, sipping slowly from a glass of water (cool or warm) can work wonders to calm it, says S. Mark McKenna, MD, a physician in Atlanta. A cup of warm tea can also help moisturize your throat, open airways and loosen throat secretions, ultimately calming your cough. Tip: If the cough attack is triggered by a cough from a cold, avoid drinking overly caffeinated teas and sip lemon or ginger tea, instead. Caffeinated drinks can act as a mild diuretic, which is not what you want when you're trying to keep the throat tissue and muscle moist.
#2: Reach for honey.
If you’re home when a coughing attack comes on, reach into your kitchen cabinets, put a little honey on a spoon and swallow it. Not only will it taste great, but honey has long been proven to be an effective cough suppressant. Honey soothes and coats the back of the throat. For a grandma-approved cough remedy, add a little lemon to help thin congestion. Interestingly, one recent study found honey to be as effective at relieving coughs as dextromethorphan, a cough-suppressing ingredient found in many over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.
#3: Find a lozenge—fast.
While cough drops won’t cure a cough, ones that contain menthol eucalyptus can help numb the back of the throat and take the edge off dry, tickling coughs. To get the maximum relief, dissolve the lozenge slowly. A lozenge will help to temporarily lubricate and soothe irritated throat tissue. Tuck the lozenge in the side of your cheek to avoid choking on it.
Try to breathe slowly through your nostrils to help alleviate a sudden spasm. This technique can work when food or a drink goes "down the wrong pipe." The result is a sudden spasm, as your body tries to expel the material from your airway or lungs. If the coughing continues, try holding your breath for as long as you comfortably can. When you exhale, you should find that the attack has stopped or lessened. Brief breath holding can help regulate the cough reflex and get a spasm under control.
When You Should See a Doctor
For any cough accompanied by bloody mucus, high fevers or severe shortness of breath, see your physician immediately. In addition, contact your doctor if you develop a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, or cough up green, yellow or rust-colored mucus. You could have a bacterial infection and need antibiotics. See an internist if you’re experiencing fevers, shaking chills or if you’re losing weight along with these symptoms. “In addition, you should also talk to a doctor if you’re waking you up in the middle of the night with a cough, but you don’t have a persistent cold,” says Gary Dorshimer, MD, an internist at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. “Certainly if you’re getting more and more short of breath, if you’re coughing during routine activities or after exercise, this is something you want to bring to a doctor’s attention right away since these are signs of asthma."
Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City-based journalist who covers such topics as family, health and parenting. She is a current contributor to Dr. Oz: The Good Life, Everyday With Rachael Ray and Yahoo Parenting.