Colds and coughs can be caused by a variety of reasons, but what cannot be denied is that these conditions are very inconvenient. While your body can typically shake off regular colds and coughs within a couple of days, those who want to get more comfortable and get better quicker can opt to use medication to minimize the negative feelings brought upon by these conditions.
Medical experts may prescribe different types of medication depending on the type of cough or cold that you have as well as on the underlying conditions that caused these afflictions.
Your body may also react differently to specific medicines, which is why it is often necessary to seek professional help even when you are experiencing just your regular variety cough or cold. In any case, if you would like to treat normal coughs and colds on your own, here’s what you should know.
What Causes Coughs and Colds?
Coughs and colds are typically caused by the body’s natural response to protect the body. This can be caused by a variety of reasons and normally affects the upper respiratory tract.
Coughs and colds can be caused by irritants in the air such as cigarette smoke, strong or pungent smells, or strong smelling gases.
If you are allergic to certain substances like mould or pollen, then it can also trigger colds or coughs due to the body’s immune system trying to protect you against these foreign substances.
Direct irritation to the throat and nasal passages can also cause the body to try to expel it through coughs, or by producing mucus that effectively causes colds. Coughs and colds may also be caused by virus such as coronavirus, adenovirus, or influenza.
Bacteria and other more serious medical conditions such as lung cancer, bronchitis, pneumonia, and strep throat can also cause either coughs or colds, or both.
What are Medicines to Treat Cough?
For treating coughs directly, you can choose to either use suppressants or expectorants. Both have different methods of lessening your coughing episodes. Cough suppressants are typically used for dry coughs or for those that suffer from uncontrollable coughing.
Cough suppressants work due to the active ingredient dextromethorphan which helps suppress the cough reflex.
On the other hand, you may also opt to use expectorants if you feel that you have a lot of phlegm that you would like to get out. This can also be used for sticky phlegm that you cannot expel on your own. The active ingredient for most expectorants is guaifenesin as it aids in making phlegm thinner and easier to expel.
What are Medicines to Treat Colds?
Decongestants contain phenylephrine, oxymetazoline, and other ingredients that are designed to reduce swelling in your nasal passages. This allows you to breathe easier as there is a larger airway for air to pass through. Decongestants come in either spray, pill, or syrup form.
Antihistamines, on the other hand, help block off the body’s production of histamines, which are the compounds responsible for the usual cold symptoms such as sneezing, clogged nose, mucus production, as well as watery eyes.
Antihistamines contain ingredients such as chlorpheniramine or diphenhydramine, but users must take caution as this product may cause drowsiness as well as oral and eye dryness.
Other Alternative Medicines
If you do not want to take the medicines that are mentioned above to treat your coughs or colds, then you may opt to choose other options in order to get some relief. Some of these treatments can be bought over the counter, while some would require a prescription from a doctor.
In some cases, some of these products would not even work and may pose some health risks if you take them haphazardly as well.
For coughs, throat lozenges or cough drops contain a chemical called hexitidine that helps alleviate sore throat through soothing and lubrication. Some variations may also include cough suppressants for double effect. Throat lozenges are often available in pharmacies and even in some convenience stores.
For coughs and colds that come from conditions such as the flu, other types of medication may be more effective. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen can help treat fevers and muscle pains, while antibiotics can aid in treating coughs or colds caused by bacterial infections.
Taking antibiotics without medical approval is not recommended as you may suffer from allergic reactions. Also, antibiotics may not be effective depending on the reason or source of the infection.
Regular coughs and colds will typically clear up in a few days up to a week, and the body can heal from these conditions on its own. If you want to give your body a hand but would not want to take any type of medication, then you can opt to just drink lots of fluids, have plenty of sleep, and eat healthy and nutritious meals.
You can also choose to use a humidifier in your room. Such a device can help in clearing up your airways so that your cold and cough symptoms would be reduced.
Of course, it is during this time that you should try to keep yourself isolated, especially if your condition is contagious. Try to keep distance from others, cough or sneeze into your handkerchief or a piece of tissue, and try to sanitize your hands and immediate surroundings regularly in order to reduce the risk of infection.
When Is It Time to Get Treated Professionally?
While it is uncommon that coughs and colds are due to anything serious, you should be careful and seek professional help if your condition does not improve or worsen after one to two weeks.
If your coughs or colds are accompanied by other conditions such as headaches, blurry vision, or muscle pain that doesn’t go away or improve, then you should also consult a doctor.
You should also go to the hospital immediately if your phlegm has traces of blood on it. Any of the conditions mentioned above may be a symptom of very serious medical conditions that would require the proper diagnosis and treatment.