How I deal with coughing up a lung

When I’ve caught the cold that is going around a friend tells me in no uncertain terms that my cough sounds quite concerning. This is most likely what the medical community calls a productive cough.1 If coughs had performance reviews their most important metric would be sputum aka mucus. A cough that brings up mucus is productive, a dry cough isn’t.1 Coughing has it’s job in the body as annoying and interrupting as it may be to our lives. While bringing up mucus isn’t most people’s idea of fun it means that cough isn’t typically an asthma symptom.1 Asthma is a common root cause of coughs, it accounts for 24 to 29 % for nonsmoking adults. 2

My asthma cough is largely kept in check by my controller medications and the occasional puff of albuterol. In addition I have practiced yoga/meditation from time to time. Yoga breathing techniques and meditation are helpful to some people.1 I don’t necessarily feel relief from the yoga or meditation specifically. More that a meditative yoga session is relaxing and some exercise that doesn’t seem to give me trouble even when I’m not feeling my best. Yoga or any other exercise does wonders for me mentally when I’m under the weather. I find it disheartening to be stuck on the sidelines. So an activity, like Yoga, that feels like a workout but doesn’t aggravate my asthma is the perfect compromise.

When the wet gross cough of a cold comes to visit I know it is going to be a whole different treatment path. Generally my healthcare team and I steer away from suppressing a productive cough. There have been some particularly annoying lingering coughs that we have medicated over the years. Unfortunately letting the productive cough run its course usually means interrupted sleep. For me interrupted sleep means lots and lots of caffeinated tea to keep me going through work and other responsibilities. It doesn’t hurt tea helps me stay hydrated. Since 85% of the effect of cough medicines is placebo any course of treatment for a cough from a cold seems reasonable to me.3 It is interesting that cough treatment has such a high placebo effect influence. I guess this explains why I feel like tea is so helpful in getting through a cold.

One thing that I think is key is to let those around you know whether or not you think your cough is contagious. If it’s just your usual asthma cough then friends, family, and coworkers will probably be more willing to sit next to you. Who you tell is of course up to you but letting people know that it’s just asthma can melt even the strongest disapproving glares. It’s a shame that people automatically assume that if you are coughing you are the bearer of some highly contagious disease. However, we will only change public perception by speaking up about why we are coughing when we are comfortable sharing with others.
Unfortunately I don’t have the magic elixir to solve all our coughing issues. For me what seems to work is drinking tea, following the asthma treatments from my doctor, and maybe a little yoga for good measure. How about you? Any favorite ways to deal with a cough?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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