Common Name/Other Name
Ubo (Fil.;Cebuano); abo (Bicol); ukok (Pang.); uyek (Ilocano)
Coughing - a short, sudden exhalation of air. It is a mechanism of the body that keeps the lungs and airways clear of phlegm or inhaled particles. However, too much coughing may indicate a disorder or disease.
The two general classifications of cough are: productive coughs (producing phlegm or mucous from the lungs) and nonproductive coughs (dry and not producing any mucous or phlegm). Coughs are also divided into acute (less than 3 weeks' duration) and chronic (more than 3 weeks' duration).
Coughs may be accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pain, blood, or large amounts of sputum or phlegm.
Types of Cough
- Smoker's Cough. Smoke poisons the cells lining the breathing tubes so mucus cannot be expelled normally. Smoker's cough may lead to a deadly lung disease. Smoking cessation is very important to avoid this kind of cough.
- Viral and bacterial. Viral infections are the most common causes of cough. Cough due to virus usually has yellow or white mucus on expectoration. In contrast, cough caused by bacterial infection has mucus with rusty or green color and sometimes looks likely that it contains pus. Bacterial infections require antibiotics, while viral infections do not necessarily need antibiotics.
- Barking cough. Caused by allergies, change in temperature at night or a viral upper respiratory infection. Children younger than three years of age have croup most often because their windpipes are narrow.
- Whooping coughs. Most likely to occur in children who have not received DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccinations. Infants with pertussis usually do not "whoop" after prolonged episodes of coughing, but they may not get enough oxygen or they may even stop breathing.
- Cough with wheezing. When coughing is accompanied by a wheezing sound when exhaling, it is a sign that something may be partially blocking the airway. This might be caused by a respiratory infection or an inflammation such as bronchitis, pneumonia or asthma.
- Stridor is noisy, harsh breathing heard when a patient breathes in. It may be caused by croup, epiglottitis or a foreign object stuck in the airway.
- Night-time/Nocturnal cough. Some forms of cough gets worse at night because the congestion in one's nose and sinuses drains down the throat and causes irritation while lying in bed. This is a problem only if the cough disturbs sleep. Asthma can also trigger night-time cough because the airways tend to be more sensitive at night.
- Daytime cough. Allergies, asthma, colds and other respiratory infections are the usual culprits. Cold air or strenuous activity can make the cough worse, and they often subside at night or when at rest.
- Cough with a cold. Because most colds are accompanied by cough, it is normal to develop either a wet or dry cough when one has a cold.
- Cough with fever. If the child has a cough, mild fever, and runny nose, chances are he has a simple cold. But cough with a fever of 38.5 degrees celsius or higher can indicate a more serious condition such as pneumonia, particularly if the child is listless and breathing fast.
- Cough in infants. Coughing can wear out babies younger than 6 months. These infants are also at risk for complications from Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) which causes bronchitis and pneumonia in young babies.
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Medication for cough should not be given unless coughing interferes with sleep since coughing helps in clearing the airways and bringing up phlegm. Treating the underlying cause of a cough (e.g. asthma, infection or fluid in the lungs) should be given priority.
- Antitussives. Act by suppressing cough.
- Codeine is an opioid analgesic used most often for cough. May cause nausea, vomiting, sedation, hypotension and respiratory depression. May cause addiction if used for prolonged periods and has additive depressant effect when taken with alcohol, sedatives, anti-depressants, certain antihistamines and sleeping aids.
- Dextromethorphan a non-opioid cough suppressant given for a non-productive cough. Should not be given to patients taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). May cause nausea, drowsiness or dizziness.
- Mucolytics and expectorants. Mucolytics decrease the thickness of mucus while expectorants increase the amount of bronchial secretions which will stimulate the cough reflex, leading to easy expulsion.
Acetylcysteine, carbocisteine, guaifenesin, ambroxol, lagundi, bromhexine
- Bronchodilators, corticosteroids. Effective for cough resulting from narrowing of the airways or bronchoconstriction.
- Antihistamines. Useful in coughs due to allergies but not in coughs due to other causes since anti-histamines cause drying of the respiratory tract and thickening of the secretions making it difficult to cough up.
- Decongestants. Used only for cough due to postnasal drip, for example - phenylephrine.
- Steam inhalation. Moisture from the steam helps stop cough by loosening the secretions, making it easier to expel.
- Antibiotics. For cough due to a bacterial infection. Antibiotics should be taken strictly as prescribed by the physician.