You may have felt it creeping up on you for days. Or perhaps you woke up with it, without any warning. Either way, you have a cough. And now you’re wondering what’s causing it, and if it’s serious.
There’s no wrong time to call your doctor. But doing a little detective work before you do can help ease your mind. Or simply help you gather the details he’ll need to make a quick diagnosis. In some cases, you might not even need to make that call at all.
Clues to ID your coughs from asthma to pneumonia
Not all coughs are the same. Some are nothing to worry about, like the cough that signals a cold. While others can be a symptom of a more serious problem.
It isn’t always possible to pinpoint a cough by sound alone. But there are often other telltale signs that can help you identify the kind of cough you have.
1. Wet or dry with a tickle:
Postnasal drip is one of the most common types of cough. It occurs when the mucus which normally drips down your throat increases or becomes thicker than normal. The drip tickles sensitive nerve endings, which then triggers you to cough.
A post nasal drip cough often appears with the common cold. But it can also show up with allergies. And the coughs can sound either loose and wet or unproductive and dry. The coughing tends to get worse at night. And you will often feel the urge to clear your throat.
If a cold is behind your hacking, you can expect other cold symptoms such as a runny nose. And if allergies are to blame, sneezing and itchy eyes might show up instead.
If allergies are causing your cough, butterbur could help. In one study, a butterbur supplement taken four times a day controlled allergy symptoms as well as a prescription drug. Antihistamines can be effective too, but come with some troubling side effects.
If you suspect a cold is causing your cough, you may be able to get rid of it quicker using zinc. Research has found that zinc acetate lozenges can help some folks get over a cold three times faster.
If the cough and other symptoms still refuse to budge, it’s possible you have a bacterial sinus infection. Talk with your doctor about your options in that case.
2. Dry and sporadic:
It surprises most folks to learn that a cough is a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. But experts say it’s actually the second most common cause of chronic coughing.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease occurs when acid escapes from your stomach into your esophagus. GERD coughs tend to sound dry and they come and go. They typically show up when you’re eating, or when you lie down.
For some folks a cough is their only sign of the disease, but you may also experience heartburn or a hoarse voice. If you suspect GERD is the cause of your cough, talk with your doctor about your options.
For many folks simply losing a few pounds can help. For more advice on getting rid of GERD check out our special report, Get rid of GERD with natural heartburn relief.
3. Dry with a wheeze:
If you’re experiencing a dry cough that ends with a wheeze or chest rattle, it may be a symptom of asthma. Asthma causes inflammation in your airways, which makes breathing more difficult.
Asthma related coughs tend to occur more often at night, when you’re exposed to cold or while exercising. And you may feel short of breath at the same time.
If you suspect asthma is causing you to cough you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible about your options. Natural treatments, such as breath training and vitamin D, can help some folks manage their symptoms.
A recent study found vitamin D supplements could slash the number of serious asthma attacks requiring a trip to the hospital in half.
4. Dry and hacking:
Some prescription medications can trigger a chronic dry and hacking cough. ACE inhibitor drugs, usually prescribed to treat high blood pressure, cause a cough in up to 35 percent of the folks who take them. Other meds that can cause coughs are antibiotics and nasal steroid sprays.
If you started a new medication within the past few weeks and then developed a dry hacking cough the drug could be the cause. Give your doctor a call to set up an appointment to discuss your options.
And in the meantime check out our special report 4 nutrients to reduce high blood pressure naturally.
5. Dry cough that turns wet:
If your cough started out dry but has turned wet with thick, red or yellow-green tinged mucus you may have pneumonia. Other signs to look for are body aches, fever, chills and breathing troubles.
If you believe you may have pneumonia, it’s time to see a doctor. There are two types of pneumonia, bacterial and viral. Your doctor can listen to your chest and run tests to diagnose you.
If your case is viral, rest, herbal teas, chicken soup and over-the-counter meds to manage your symptoms are the best approach. If the pneumonia is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe medication.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
Follow Alice and HealthierTalk on Twitter and Facebook.
Latest posts by Alice Jacob (see all)
- 5 different kinds of coughs and what they mean - December 7, 2017
- Drinking coffee could lower risk of cancer and liver disease - December 5, 2017
- 5 healthy Christmas gifts for under $50 bucks - December 4, 2017