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Cough - Symptoms and Treatment

Cough is one of the most common reasons for visits to health care providers. Normal coughing is important to keep your throat and airways clear. However, excessive coughing may mean you have an underlying disease or disorder.

A cough protects the lungs by raising sputum and irritating substances, but it can prove distracting to the athlete during exercise or sleep. A cough can decrease or prevent athletic participation. Coughs are of two types:

  • Non-productive cough (no sputum raised).
  • Productive cough (sputum raised with or without blood). Sputum may be clear, mucoid, purulent (looks like pus), bloody or streaked with blood.


Whooping cough is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. It is spread through children from exposure to infected persons through droplets in the air. Once the bacteria is in the child's airways, swelling of the airways and mucus production begins.

This disease can be prevented with proper immunizations using the pertussis vaccine. This is usually part of the DTaP vaccine - or the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. This vaccine is usually given to children at 2, 4, 6, and 15 to 18 months of age, with a booster at 4 to 6 years of age. The acellular pertussis vaccine now recommended produces fewer adverse reactions than the older vaccine.

Signs and symptoms

Whooping cough begins like a cold. The symptoms can rapidly progress to include:

  • Severe cough, which occurs in bouts of coughing
  • Characteristic 'whooping' sound on inhalation
  • Vomiting at the end of a bout of coughing
  • Fever, chills, night sweats from bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, or other lung infection
  • Headache
  • Apnoea - the child stops breathing for periods of time and may go blue.
  • Wheezing from asthma
These symptoms may be associated with poor appetite, fatigue and dehydration. The person may appear normal between bouts of coughing. During the convalescent phase, the cough gradually decreases, but it often takes weeks to disappear.


The diagnosis is usually made from the symptoms and the history of contact with a person suffering from whooping cough. Your doctor will also conduct a thorough physical examination, paying particular attention to your nasal passages, throat, lungs, heart, and legs. Depending on what is suspected from the history and physical exam, your doctor may order cultures of the sputum (if you have a productive cough that may be bacterial), an electrocardiogram (EKG), lung function tests, or X-rays of your chest or sinuses


In its early stages, the symptoms of whooping cough can be reduced by taking antibiotics. Treatment will reduce the risk of passing the infection to others, if it is given in the first 21 days of the illness. Members of the patient's family are at increased risk of acquiring the disease, and are usually prescribed erythromycin as a preventative measure, regardless of whether or not they are fully vaccinated.


To relieve symptoms, you may use non-prescription drugs, such as throat lozenges or cough remedies containing dextromethorphan. Avoid cough remedies with codeine if you are planning to continue to exercise and compete.

Home remedies

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier close to your bed when sleeping Wash the humidifier often to prevent contamination with germs.
  • The root of the turmeric plant is useful in a dry cough. The root should he roasted and powdered. This powder should be taken in three gram doses twice daily, in the morning and evening.
  • Soak almonds overnight. Remove their skin. Make a paste of these almonds with little butter and sugar. Very useful for a dry cough.
  • Grape juice Mix a cup of grape juice with a teaspoon of honey.
  • Aniseed is another effective remedy for a hard dry cough with difficult expectoration. It breaks up the mucus. A tea made from this spice should be taken regularly for treating this condition.
  • Carrot juice Mix with honey and a little warm water. Take a tablespoonful several times a day.
  • Treat the underlying disease.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Avoid people with colds or flu if you can. Wash your hands frequently during epidemics of upper-respiratory illness.

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Disclaimer: website is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Always take the advice of professional health care for specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment. We will not be liable for any complications, or other medical accidents arising from the use of any information on this web site. Please note that medical information is constantly changing. Therefore some information may be out of date.