FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
During a wet cough, the cough action should be encouraged in order to prevent secretions from pooling in the lungs which can impair breathing and the ability of the lungs to resist infection.3 Cough mixtures for wet coughs either contain a single ingredient, or a combination of ingredients to promote coughing and make it easier to cough up mucus or phlegm.1,2,7
A dry cough does not present with phlegm or mucus and the lungs do not have to cough it up. As the dry cough serves no physiological useful purpose, it can be suppressed if there is no identifiable cause and if it is disruptive, e.g. disturbing your sleep.3 Cough suppressants are used for short-term relief of dry cough.1
Cough mixtures for wet coughs either contain a single ingredient, or a combination of ingredients to promote coughing and make it easier to cough up mucus or phlegm.1,2,7 Mucolytics, e.g. carbocysteine and bromhexine, are useful when mucus or phlegm are thick and sticky. Mucolytics decrease mucus viscosity, making it easier to cough up mucus.7 Expectorants, e.g. guaiphenesin, are used for wet coughs to help cough up or expectorate secretions or mucus.1 Bronchodilators relieve a tight chest by relaxing the muscles around the airways, allowing for easier breathing.7 They also reportedly reduce the volume of mucus secretion.7 A combination of a mucolytic and a bronchodilator works well for a wet cough.2,7 Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to assist you in choosing the appropriate cough mixture for your condition.
Cough suppressants are used for short-term relief of a dry cough.1 Examples of cough suppressants that work on the cough centre in the brain include codeine, pholcodine and dextromethorphan.1 Sedating antihistamines also act as cough suppressants as well as dry up nasal secretions.1 They are useful when a cough and cold occur together and their sedative effect is beneficial if the cough is disturbing your sleep.3 A cough suppressant combined with a nasal decongestant relieves a dry cough and a blocked nose.6
In some cases, lungs can become hypersensitive following an infection, and then create a vicious circle in which cough perpetuates more coughing.4 This can lead to complications such as fatigue, sleep deprivation, hoarseness, musculoskeletal pain, sweating and urinary incontinence.4
Due to the fact that a dry cough does not present with phlegm and the lungs do not have to cough it up, the dry cough serves no physiological useful purpose and can be suppressed if there is no identifiable cause and if it is disruptive, e.g. disturbing your sleep.3 In contrast, during a wet cough, the cough action should be encouraged in order to prevent secretions from pooling in the lungs which can impair breathing and the ability of the lungs to resist infection.3 A wet cough should therefore not be suppressed.
Croup is an inflammation of the windpipe (trachea) and voice box (larynx) caused by a contagious viral infection that causes a typical bark-like cough, a loud squeaking noise (stridor), and sometimes difficulty with breathing in (inspiration).8 It mainly affects children aged 6 months to 3 years.8 Pertussis (whooping cough) is a highly contagious infection caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, which results in fits of coughing that usually end in a prolonged, high-pitched, deeply indrawn breath (the whoop). It affects mainly children and adolescents. Whooping cough can be prevented with a vaccination.9
A dry cough produces no phlegm and is typically caused by viral infections of the upper respiratory tract, a smoky or dry environment, air pollution, allergies, asthma, reflux, acute bronchitis, croup and certain medications. 1,3 A dry cough can be suppressed if there is no identifiable cause and if it is disruptive, e.g. disturbing your sleep.3
A wet cough produces mucus or phlegm, is chesty and loose, and can cause chest pain.1-3,5 Typical causes include chronic bronchitis, upper and lower respiratory tract infections, postnasal drip and smoking.1 During a wet cough, the cough action should be encouraged in order to prevent secretions from pooling in the lungs which can impair breathing and the ability of the lungs to resist infection.3
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about you or your child’s cough symptoms.
Cough is a natural action which clears the airways of mucus or particles and protect the airways from inhaling foreign material.4 However, in some conditions coughing may become excessive, troublesome, and potentially harmful to the airways.4 An acute cough can interfere with day-to-day living and disrupt sleep.3 Early intervention of an acute cough may prevent the vicious cycle of cough causing more cough and decreases the spread of viruses.4 It also avoids many related complications, such as fatigue, sleep deprivation, hoarseness, muscle pain, sweating and incontinence.4 The choice of cough management depends on the type of cough.3
Codeine is a mild opioid which is used as a pain killer, and also to suppress cough. Due to codeine’s metabolism to morphine, it has reported abuse potential, habit forming, and is associated several morphine-type side-effects such as constipation.10,11
Pholcodine is a cough suppressant that acts primarily on the Central Nervous System (CNS) to suppress the cough reflex. It also has a mild sedative effect, but unlike codeine, it does not have morphine-type side-effects and when used at the recommended dose, pholcodine has not been reported to have an abuse potential.11-13
Coughing is the body’s way of removing foreign material or mucus from the lungs and upper airway passages or of reacting to an irritated airway. A cough is only a symptom, not a disease, and often the importance of a cough can be determined only when other symptoms are evaluated.2 Cough is a non-specific symptom that can be linked to over 100 conditions, ranging from minor self-limiting to life-threatening conditions.1
Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about your cough.