The cough is the body’s way of ridding the upper lung passages and the throat of foreign matter. It helps to get rid of secretions and particles as well. Most of us cough in response to a reflex or to a sensation that we have something to get rid of from our respiratory tree. The changes caused by aging may affect the ability of these mechanisms to work. Coughing becomes less frequent, and problems may occur.
It is wise to cough on purpose, that is, selectively, each morning and evening to help the lungs to remain clean and free of secretions. Patients with chronic lung diseases may need to do selective coughing more frequently to clear their lungs. A selective cough on rising in the morning helps clear any secretions that may have accumulated during sleep. A selective cough before bedtime may help ensure a night of quiet and uninterrupted sleep. A selective cough is a deep-passage clearing cough and is far more effective and less tiring than the chronic cough in response to a tickle in the throat.
Some medications can cause coughing. The drugs used for high blood pressure and other blood vessel problems called ACE inhibitors can cause chronic cough. Report chronic cough that is new in onset to your physician.
Important Points in Treatment
- Selective cough is best done seated. Bending forward and leaning on the back of a chair, on a counter, or on a table also makes it easier. Make sure that whatever you lean on is solid and secure so that the cough does not cause you to lose balance or fall.
- When in a comfortable position, take a deep breath in and hold it for just a few seconds. This is not the time to try for a breath-holding record. A few seconds will do perfectly well.
- As an exhalation, cough twice in rapid succession. The first cough starts things out and loosens secretions, and the second cough moves things up and out. Any sputum should be disposed of in a paper tissue.
- If clearance seems incomplete, repeat the selective cough several times. Do not do it so frequently or for so long that it causes you to become tired. Patients with chronic lung problems such as bronchitis may need to lie on one or both sides before coughing to help secretions to drain. This is called postural drainage.
Notify Our Office If ...
- You have sudden onset of pain in your chest after a cough.
- You notice sudden onset of shortness of breath after you cough.
- You cough up any blood or tissue.