Coughs & Colds: Types, Causes & Cures
Have you ever dealt with cough and cold symptoms that are different from each other, making it difficult for you to diagnose which type of cough you have? The remedies for each cough differ as well, which is why it is important to know the different types of coughs, what causes them, and how you can treat the symptoms. Below are a few examples of the different types of coughs in both adults and children, and suggested treatments for these coughs that may be useful the next time you suffer from a coughing fit.
The Barking Cough
Symptoms: You’ve probably experienced sniffling with a stuffy nose just before going to bed, and then waking up with a barking cough up a few hours later. The stuffy nose is your first sign that you’re probably going to have a bad cough. A chesty cough, barking cough occurs when your chest is congested. It is common in children, but can occur in adults as well.
Potential Causes: Croup, a viral illness that causes the larynx to swell up, restricting air to the windpipe is one of the most common causes of barking cough. Croup is one of the main reasons people get sick when the weather changes, and it is common during winter season. While croup mostly occurs in children aged 6 months to 3 years, adults can be susceptible to it as well. Due to congestion, you may find that you wheeze when you breathe due to croup.
Remedies: Please be advised that Croup can be a life threatening condition especially in infants and young children so it is strongly recommended to seek medical attention if your child may have Croup. Barking cough requires warmth and fresh air, so bundle up and take a short walk outside. Another great quick remedy is steam. Turn your bathroom into a temporary sauna by turning on the hot water and soaking in the steam – the moist, hot air will help you breathe easier. Humidifiers can also help you or your child breathe when suffering from barking cough. You can also use medications like Cold-Fix to alleviate the coughing.
The Dry Cough
Symptoms: If you find that you have a persistent cough that comes and goes over a period of months, and if the cough tends to get worse after physical activity and during nighttime, you’ve got what is known as the dry cough. Dry coughs are sometimes followed by mucus after a lot of dry coughing.
Causes: Dry coughs can stem from asthma, which is a chronic condition where the lungs become inflamed, which in turn restricts the airways and produces excess mucus. While wheezing is usually seen as one of the main symptoms of asthma, sometimes a dry, hacking cough at night is the symptom that is most prevalent with most adults and children with these symptoms, especially at night. The dry cough can be triggered by allergies, colds, or wind chill.
Remedies: If you think asthma may be the cause of your dry cough, see a doctor. In mild cases, you can use a special inhaler during an attack.
The Mucus Cough
Symptoms: Have you ever had a cough that’s extremely phlegmy? A runny nose, a sore throat, watery eyes, and a poor appetite usually accompany this type of cough, which is known as the mucus cough.
Causes: The mucus cough usually stems from the common cold, and can last for up to two weeks. The cough may be a dry cough with mucus, or more of a wet cough. Children are more susceptible to colds than adults, and they can catch a cold anywhere from six to ten times per year.
Remedies: Colds are caused by viruses and not bacteria so using antibiotics which only treat infections caused by bacteria would not be effective. Using a cool-mist humidifier in your room, and taking a warm bath are two ways you can help alleviate cold symptoms. Vapor rub inhalation also helps when you have a mucus cough. Medications like Cold-Fix can help you to kick the cough to the curb by building up your immune system and boosting the body’s ability to attack the issue.
The Tired Cough
Symptoms: If you have low energy, a weak, hoarse cough, and other symptoms such as a high fever, muscle pain, and the sniffles, you have a tired cough, which is a virus-based cough with fever.
Causes: Out of all the different types of coughs, the tired cough is a tough one because it is often brought on by the flu. The flu incubates for a long time, so you may have the flu for a few days before any symptoms materialize, which means that friends and family can also contract it from you.
Remedies: Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. Some other medications that might be helpful are acetaminophen or ibuprofen which should only be taken only as directed.
The Whooping Cough
Symptoms: If you cough more than 10 times in one breath while suffering from a cold, you may have the whooping cough.
Causes: Whooping cough is caused by bacteria, which causes severe inflammation which in turn blocks the airways. Adults can catch whooping cough if they are around others who have it, however, children who’ve not yet been fully immunized are most likely to catch whooping cough. Infants are usually at greatest risk for this type of cough, and whooping cough is one of the more severe baby cough types.
Remedies: Whooping cough is one of the more serious types of coughs, and seeing a doctor for this type of cough is highly and strongly recommended. Children under 6 months old may even require hospitalization. The infection can also be treated with antibiotics, and other adults and children in the same home may need to take preventive antibiotics or booster shots to avoid getting sick. Antibiotics will also work to clear up the infection if the course of medication is started when signs of whooping cough are seen early, but in severe cases, whopping cough lingers for months and returns when your child gets any other respiratory infections.
The Whistling Cough (or The Bronchiolitis Cough)
Symptoms: The whistling cough is a cold induced cough, and after having a cold for a few days, you may have a raspy, whistling cough. Rapid breathing and irritability are also symptoms of this type of cough.
Causes: The whistling cough is usually caused by bronchiolitis, an infection within the lungs. When the lungs swell and fill with mucus, it makes normal breathing difficult. The most common cause of bronchitis is the respiratory syncytial virus (known as RSV), which can make the bronchiolitis cough an alarming one.
Remedies: Call a doctor at once if you have any difficulty breathing. Most people suffering from this type of cough don’t need medication, but in serious cases, hospitalization may be required to receive oxygen, fluids, or medication.
The Wet Cough
Symptoms: If you have a cold that doesn’t seem to go away, and along with the cold, you find that you have a wet and phlegmy cough, and your breathing seems to be more erratic than normal, you have the wet cough.
Causes: If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is possible that the cause is Pneumonia, in which a virus or bacteria invades the lungs and causes inflammation of the airways and can cause the lungs to fill up with fluid. Pneumonia cough symptoms are usually a little more severe than other cough symptoms, which can be alarming.
Remedies: Many of the remedies above can be used to alleviate mild pneumonia symptoms. If your symptoms are more severe or last longer than a few days you should consult a doctor immediately. The doctor may do an oxygen-saturation test and an X-Ray of your lungs may be needed. If the doctor determines the pneumonia is bacterial, antibiotics will be the best remedy; but if the pneumonia is viral, symptomatic remedies and OTC medications can help as long as there is noticeable improvement in symptoms after a few days. Pneumonia cough symptoms can usually be treated at home, but if severe, hospitalization may be required as determined by a doctor.
Simple Cough Soothers
Here’s a few quick and easy ways to alleviate cough symptoms:
- Plenty of water: Fluids help strengthen your immune system and loosen phlegm.
- Nasal aspirator: Opens the nasal airways when you have nasal mucus from a cold or flu.
- Cool-mist humidifier: Can help open the lungs for easier breathing.
- OTC Medication: A recommended OTC medication is Cold-Fix, which can alleviate cough and cold symptoms and provide relief from different types of coughs.
The above information and recommendations will help you decide what to do when you are sick and get the remedies that you need to feel better. Knowing the different types of coughs and how to deal with them is an important part of getting well and staying that way.