The Cough That Won’t Go Away

Why are some coughs so hard to get rid of? Discover the cause and you can banish them for good.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Why are some coughs so hard to get rid of? Discover the cause and you can banish them for good.

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An asthma cough is usually a wheezing cough that is worse at night. Asthmatics have sensitive airways in their lungs, which react to triggers. During an asthma attack, muscles around the airways constrict the airways swell and narrow and mucus is produced that makes it difficult to breathe. A persistent cough indicates asthma, as do breathlessness, wheezing and a tight chest. See your doctor to make sure that you have the right amount of medication.


A persistent wet cough with coloured phlegm can indicate pneumonia or bronchitis. “Phlegm can be green, yellow, white, creamy, clear, or blood-tinged. If there are bits of green and yellow it is probably viral and won’t need antibiotics, but if there are copious amounts of coloured phlegm, antibiotics may be required to treat this,” says Dr Magdalena Simonis, a GP. Pneumonia also brings temperature and chest pain when you take a deep breath.


Sometimes a cough  sounds like a regular cough to clear the throat. but there is nothing to clear. “It can become intrusive during conversations and when you need to be quiet. You start to think about your cough and end up coughing,” says Professor Jenkins, head of respiratory trials at The George Institute for Global Health. Sucking on a throat lozenge and drinking water can help, but see a GP or psychologist to identify the triggers.


“Whooping cough is an infection that is readily transmitted between children and to adults from children,” says Professor Jenkins. “The coughing comes in intense and explosive bursts. As a person gasps for air, it creates a whooping sound. The vocal cords spasm and make the noisy ‘whoop’.” Adults may have half a dozen coughing episodes a day. Get medical help quickly, as some antibiotics reduce the length and intensity of the illness.


This dry cough is caused by food flowing up from the stomach and into the back of the throat. This happens if the valve between the stomach and the esophagus – the tube that food goes down to reach the stomach – doesn’t close well. Digested food refluxes back into the throat and causes a cough, mostly when lying down, says Dr Simonis. This cough can be relieved by sleeping on an extra pillow, not eating for three hours before bedtime, and anti-reflux medication.

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If you have a cough, don’t suppress it: Cough up the phlegm and have hot drinks with honey to soothe your irritated throat. Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa is a Chinese herbal remedy which helps relieve symptoms of coughs and sore throats with Chuan Bei plant extracts, soothing honey and traditional herbs. Its new No Sugar Added formula is suitable for those watching their sugar intake, and is a healthy and equally good alternative to the original Pei Pa Koa formula. 




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