- What Is Known About Coughs and Bronchitis
- Healthy Steps: Coughs & Bronchitis—First Steps
- Healthy Steps: Coughs & Bronchitis—Full Program
- Cough and Bronchitis Prevention
- From Dr. Deborah's Desk
Even when reassured that your nagging cough is harmless, the nagging part is no fun at all. Interrupting meals, conversations, and worst of all – sleep, a week or two of coughing is more than most people can tolerate. Natural treatments abound, and it's challenging to identify healing choices.
And with every cough, you wonder: "Is this just part of my cold or do I have bronchitis?" Well, most simply - if you’re coughing and don’t have pneumonia, you have bronchitis. Air passageways in your chest are inflamed, swollen and producing mucus, which in turn triggers coughing.
Doctors are often frustrated when they identify bronchitis, because antibiotics are rarely useful in uncomplicated coughs, which are almost always caused by viruses. Only persistent bronchitis or bronchitis accompanied by a high fever, may benefit from antibiotics. Antibiotics have long-lasting side effects and are best reserved for individuals not healthy enough to recover without them, even if their illness lasts a few more days.
The truth is that a cough is helpful; coughing helps your body expel viruses and irritants. I only recommend suppressing a cough to help with sleep, and to let it do its job during daytime hours.
Meanwhile, what to do? A hacking cough disrupts sleep, saps vitality, and in the case of bronchitis, usually lasts for at least 2 to 4 weeks. Dr DeborahMD’s natural program outlined here will support your body’s natural healing abilities, safely ease bronchitis symptoms, and speed your return to health.
Whether a solitary symptom or part of a cold, coughs typically start as dry and hacking, and may become wet and productive after a few days. Mucus brought up during coughing (called expectorant, sputum or phlegm – so many names for mucus!) is natural, and the color of produced mucus indicates nothing about the cause of the infection, whether it’s viral or bacterial. The greater moisture in the air passages, the lighter color the mucus; mucus coughed up after a night of sleep or poor hydration is darker in color, green or brown.
Other common symptoms of bronchitis include a mild fever (usually less than 101°F), fatigue, hoarseness, and a tightness or dull pain in the chest beneath the breastbone when coughing or taking a deep breath. Because pneumonia has symptoms similar to bronchitis, it’s important to distinguish between the two. If coughing is accompanied by a high fever, chills, and shortness of breath, consult your doctor to rule out pneumonia.
For most people, bronchitis lasts approximately 2 to 3 weeks, and resolves with no lingering problems. But for almost 1/4 of people, a nagging cough will linger for more than a month. To expedite your recovery from bronchitis (or to ease a simple uncomplicated cough), your best bet is to keep mucus membranes moist, and to prevent mucus from becoming thick and sticky in your bronchial passages.
Your first helpful natural treatment for your cough is rest! Try my cough-soothing recommendations to improve your ability to rest and sleep. Allow yourself to slow down and rest, so your body can work to heal itself. And last, but certainly not least, avoid all sources of smoke to alleviate stress on your respiratory system.
- Drink plenty of liquids and rest in a room with a comfortable temperature, high humidity, that is smoke-free.
- Thorne Research OPC-100, an excellent anti-oxidant that can support your immune system as it works to get you healthy again. Take one or two capsules 2-3 times daily.
- Cough relief:
- Raw Manuka Honey stirred into warm water, taken every few hours. (Ages 1 to 5, 1/2 teaspoon of honey; older children and adults, 1-2 teaspoons; honey is not safe for children under 1 year old.) If desired, mix with freshly squeezed orange juice (including pulp). For patients of appropriate age, two tablespoons of added brandy is extra soothing
- Gaia Herbs Cough Syrup. Herbal cough syrups can provide relief from the cough to allow sleep. Minimize daytime use, rely on water and lozenges to soothe your airway.
A comprehensive Cough & Bronchitis program involves many areas where action steps can be taken, gradually or all at once.
Savor Helpful Foods
- Turmeric: Drinking warm water with one teaspoon of powdered turmeric added soothes inflamed airways and fights infection. Or add it to your chicken soup!
- Chicken soup: Eat one to two bowls daily of homemade chicken soup.
Avoid Problematic Foods
- Avoid sweets, other than the minimal honey, which weaken your immune response
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, other than the possible brandy listed above.
Supplements Can Help
- Thorne Research OPC-100: One or two capsules, three times daily.
- Begin Barleans Omega Swirl, 1 Tbsp daily, or Designs for Health OmegAvail, 1 or 2 softgels daily.
- Biotics Research Bio-D-Multion Forte: Take 2-5 drops daily.
- The Synergy Company Pure Radiance Vitamin C: Take1-2 capsules daily.
- Gaia Herbs Cough Syrup. Take as directed, available for children and adults.
- Thorne Research M. F. Bromelain: Where there is a lot of mucus present, bromelain helps to thin and eliminate the mucus. Take one with The Synergy Company Pure Radiance Vitamin C, 1-4 times daily.
Daily Life Choices
- Humidify: For quick relief from coughing, try a steam inhalation or use a humidifier. Inhaling moist air delivers moisture deep into the bronchial passages, where it helps to loosen mucus and makes it easier to expel. Take a hot shower, make a towel tent over a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam, or use a humidifier with either a warm or cool mist. Running a humidifier in the bedroom while sleeping allows for exposure to hours of moist air, but be sure to keep your humidifier scrupulously clean to avoid the problem of mold.
- Warm saltwater gargle: Gargling with warm salt water loosens phlegm in the airways and bronchioles. Simply add a spoonful of salt to lukewarm water and gargle with in the morning and again in the evening.
Homeopathic Treatment for Coughs
Match the cough symptoms to the best description below, noting that some descriptions are more about the cough, and others more about the person who has the cough. Either way, find the best match, and take the remedy in a 30C strength, 2 pellets, three times a day for one to three days. As the cough starts to get better, decrease to once daily until well. Genders are alternated in the description, but any remedy may work for any gender or age.
A well-selected remedy for an acute cough may interrupt a tendency to get coughs. If the tendency persists, that is best addressed in a consultation with a professional homeopath.
Homeopathic remedies are available for purchase from my office, see the information on this page.
- The cough is feeble, with audible mucus cracking or rattling in the chest.
- Hearing the cough you want to help the person “just cough it up”, but they seem too weak to do it – nothing much comes up, and if it does it’s quite thick.
- The cough lingers for a long time, usually a dry cough.
- The cough is worse from moving in any way, including talking. Sharp or stitching pains accompany either the motion or the coughing.
- The person is very thirsty and lots of liquid (cold or warm) might help the cough.
- The person is irritable and wants to be left alone!
- The cough’s tickle starts in the throat.
- The cough is worse from lying down, bending forward, or talking, and seems worse if exposed to a draft of cold air.
- Two things seem to help the cough: cold drinks and coughing up some mucus.
- Fits of coughing that can’t be stopped and may be forceful or violent.
- The cough gets worse in a warm room. and better in the cold or outside.
- The cough may be better from any cold: cold air, drinks and/or food.
- Drosera is another remedy for violent coughs.
- The cough is triggered by eating, drinking, first lying down, and a big cough is triggered by a little one.
- The only relief comes from sitting up or even getting up and walking around.
- The cough can be so extreme that there is vomiting or a nosebleed.
- With the cough there is a lot of nausea, retching or vomiting; just as the medicine Ipecac causes vomiting, the homeopathic remedy Ipecacuanha can relieve the tendency to vomit, especially with a cough.
- The tickling cough is often worse in the evening.
- There may be an asthmatic component to the cough.
- The cough disturbs sleep, waking you between 2 and 4 AM.
- The cough is worse from the cold and damp, worse from lying down.
- The cough is better from sitting up, either bold upright or leaning forward.
- There might be swelling of the face or eyelids along with the cough.
- The cough is dry, tickling or painful, and accompanies every cold or illness.
- The cough is worse from talking, change of temperature, night time, and lying down at night.
- The cough is better from drinking large amounts of cold liquids.
- The person wants company, wants to be cared for, but is worse when they try to chat with someone or thank them.
- The dry cough starts from a tickle deep in the throat.
- The cough is worse from breathing cold air, or any deep breath, pressing on the throat, or talking.
- The cough is dry, without any mucus.
- Strangely, the cough is worse from undressing!
- The cough is dry and hacking, and may sound like barking.
- The cough is worse at night.
- The cough is better from eating, drinking, sucking on lozenges, and sitting up and forward.
- Spongia is a remedy often used for the cough coming from croup: a night time cough, usually in young children, better from the moisture of the bathroom while the shower runs or the moisture of the night air.
- The cough is productive, yielding thick mucus.
- The person with the cough is exhausted and worse from any exertion.
- The cough may be worse from making any effort, either talking or moving.
Maintaining a healthy immune system is essential for being able to fight off the viruses that cause coughs and bronchitis. Follow our recommendations for a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, exercise appropriately, practice stress management, and don't smoke. People who smoke or who are exposed to secondhand smoke suffer more frequent bouts of bronchitis. Inhaling smoke interferes with the body's ability to effectively eliminate the viruses that cause bronchitis.
As much as possible, avoid close contact with people who are suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection. Wash your hands often (especially after being out in public) and avoid touching your eyes or nose, both of which are avenues for cold and flu viruses to infect the respiratory tract.
Coughs, like head colds, are minor irritants in generally healthy people. Proper nutrition, rest, and supplementation make a world of difference in how often someone gets sick, and how sick they get. My daughter had a tendency to coughs, but as she learned the early signs she would take extra vitamin D3, extra OPC's, and our favorite home remedy, a freshly squeezed orange with lots of pulp, a little hot water, and less honey. Her coughs became mild problems and went off my maternal radar!
One morning when she was quite well, I found her in the kitchen scooping out a handful with a quadruple dose of OPC's, "cough pills" as we called them, to take with her to school. On questioning, I learned that a snowboard teammate with an annoying cough had been unable to convince his parents about the “cough pills,” so she was taking matters into her own hands. She said that after 2 days it had helped, and that she continues to “doctor” uninformed or unequipped friends, always at the ready with her OPC's and the D3.
This information is provided for educational purposes only, and any individual diagnosis or treatment should be determined by you and your doctor. See Additional Information.