What’s causing your cough?
As irritating as it may be, coughing is the body’s way of ridding the lungs and airways of foreign substances and mucus.1 Coughs can, however, make breathing difficult and irritating. Being aware of the cause of your cough will help you treat it quickly and effectively, and help restore health. The first step? Knowing whether the culprit’s a bacteria or a virus.
Bacteria are tiny single-celled organisms. Not all bacteria are bad – there are beneficial bacteria living inside our bodies that help with essential functions.1 Viruses are also microscopic beings, but they behave differently to bacteria. Viruses flourish inside a living organism and can live for a brief period of time outside their host – like hovering in the air right after a person coughs. But in order to multiply they need to settle inside a host.1
Viral vs bacterial
Viral coughs are caused by viruses which inflame the throat or lungs and can last up to three weeks without treatment. However, the body can fight the infection if the immune system is strong enough. Viral coughs develop over a day or two and typically worsen after two to three days. 2 They affect the throat (larynx), main airway (trachea), or the airways leading into the lungs (bronchi) – and can lead to laryngitis, tracheitis, or bronchitis.2
Bacterial coughs mainly attack the upper respiratory tract – the nose, throat and bronchi. 3 A bacterial cough usually results in a chest infection, whooping cough or – in extreme cases – tuberculosis (TB) or pneumonia. 3 Bacterial infections can usually be identified with a doctor’s test. For example, a throat test can check for the presence of the streptococcus bacteria.
What to look out for
Most viral coughs clear with ease – and a little help from an effective cough medication. However, a secondary infection with germs (bacteria) can develop, which lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia. It’s also easy to confuse other causes of a cough (like asthma) with a viral infection. 2 It’s advisable to see a doctor if you have high temperature, chest pains or consistently severe headaches. Monitor breathing patterns and if you cough up blood and the cough persists, take immediate action with the advice of a health practitioner. 2
Tackling coughs with treatment
Many people resort to antibiotics when they have an infection. However, antibiotics won’t work to ease a cough caused by a virus. They may even make symptoms worse, as they cause side-effects like diarrhoea and rashes. 2.
If you test positive for a bacterial throat or lung infection, your doctor will usually treat it with antibiotics: medicine that specifically inhibits the growth of bacteria. 3 However, be weary of antibiotics in killing bacteria completely as they can also destroy natural bodily mechanisms that protect the body from diseases – resulting in a compromised immune system as a whole.3
Also exercise caution in using any over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicine. There’s no evidence they work and they can, in fact, cause side effects such as allergic reactions, sleep interference or hallucinations. It’s important to use safe cough syrups like Prospan, which can relieve coughs caused by a virus or a bacteria, without any harmful ingredients.
Prospan has been clinically proven in 70 000 patients. It’s the safest and effective cough treatment to alleviate coughs. For more information around the different types of coughs and how to treat them. For an opportunity to interview an expert pharmacist about cough medication, contact Nthaiseng@gullanandgullan.com