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COUGHS

Coughing is one of the most common symptoms presented to the doctor. It is produced as a reflex action when a foreign particle enters the air passages and, therefore, has a protective function in preventing mucus or other substances from passing down into the lungs. Coughing also helps to bring up any mucus or infected material from the chest. Thus, it can be very beneficial and suppressing it, may do more harm than good. However, treatment is indicated in certain cases:

  1. When the cough is dry and does not result in the production of any phlegm (mucus)

  2. When a night cough disturbs the sleep of both the patient and the rest of the household

  3. When there is much pain associated with the cough due to the stretching of the muscles supporting the ribs

  4. When the mucus is very sticky and difficult to bring up (expectorate)

  5. When any of the symptoms of whooping cough (pertussis) appear

Treatment

Cough suppression : Hot drinks such as lemon and honey are very effective in suppressing the cough reflex. A number of effective preparations are available without prescription, such as codeine linctus and pholcodine linctus.

Steam inhalation : This method is really only safe and suitable for the older child. Karvol capsules, menthol crystals, Vick Vapour Rub or Friars Balsam in hot water that produces steam is an effective way to reduce a cough and also make it easier to bring up phlegm. Place a small quantity of the appropriate preparation in a bowl containing hot water. Put a towel over the child's head which has been placed just above the water, and encourage him to inhale deeply for three to four minutes. Be very careful to avoid contract by the child with the water as he could be severely scalded. This treatment should be done just before going to bed as it will make him sweat.

Medication : This may be necessary if the cough has been caused by an infection which has not been adequately coped with by the body's normal defense mechanisms. The doctor will usually prescribe an appropriate antibiotic.

WHEN TO CONSULT THE DOCTOR
  • If coughing continues after a common cold has cleared up.
  • If coughing produces yellow or green spit. This may mean that the child has developed bronchitis.
  • If coughing is accompanied by a pain in the chest or shortness of breath.
  • If coughing occurs in spasms.
  • If the child appears to be generally unwell.
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