NHS Choices tells us that a cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus and irritants such as dust or smoke. It also says that there is “no quick way of getting rid of a cough caused by a viral infection. It will usually clear up after your immune system has fought off the virus”.
This is fine, if it does, but many coughs have a tendency to endure longer than we would wish. There are many different types of cough ranging from irritating, tickly coughs, chesty coughs, croupy coughs, dry coughs, wet coughs - all of them irritating, uncomfortable, and even distressing. They can lead to other problems, such as irritability, sore muscles, and a lack of sleep.
CONVENTIONAL MEDICAL TREATMENT
NHS Choices tell us that the simplest and cheapest way to treat a short-term cough may be a homemade cough remedy containing honey and lemon. It then suggests cough medicines but warns that “there's little evidence to suggest cough medicines actually work, although some ingredients may help treat symptoms associated with a cough, such as a blocked nose or fever”. Further, they say that many cough medicines contain Paracetamal (with all the inherent dangers of this painkilling drug), and warn not to take more than the recommended dosage, or for more than two weeks.
Indeed, in treating children NHS Choices reminds us that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommends that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under the age of six “because it feels there's a potential risk of these medicines causing unpleasant side effects, such as allergic reactions, sleep problems or hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren't real). These would outweigh any benefit provided by the medicines”.
NHS Choices then mentions Cough suppressants such as Pholcodine, Dextromethorphan and Antihistamines, drugs that “act on the brain to hold back the cough reflex” - but which are in any case only used for ‘dry’ coughs. They say that these drugs ‘have few side effects’ beyond a dry mouth, constipation, difficulty passing urine and blurred vision, although Antihistamines are also known to cause drowsiness; but even so they warn not to take cough suppressants without first consulting with your doctor or pharmacist.
Expectorants, to help bring phlegm up so that coughing is easier, is NHS Choices next recommendation to help with ‘chesty’ coughs. Again, they say that they have few side effects.
The only other suggestion NHS Choices has is to stop smoking!
None of this is presented with much conviction or confidence, in contrast to Homeopathy, which has a variety of remedies that can be used, safely and effectively, for the treatment of coughs for people of all ages.
Much of the information in this section has been taken from the Homeopathy Plus website. It is interesting to read this Australian-based website because much of the information has had to be redacted because of complaints from parts of the Conventional Medical Establishment, and the Big Pharmaceutical lobby. It is important for any looking for safe and effective treatment, for coughs and anything else, that there are people out there who do not want you to find them!
The sudden onset of a cough after exposure to a dry cold wind or from getting chilled. There is a suffocative feeling with a constant, short, dry cough and chest. Aconite is for the early stages of croup and croup coughs, and also night-time coughs, accompanied by shortness of breath and agitation. In the case of croup, Aconite may need to be followed by Hepar Sulph as the symptoms develop.
A rattling, choking, chesty cough with negligible expectoration and where the patient has to sit up in order to breathe. The patient sounds like they are drowning in mucus and there are suffocative paroxysms of coughing, with sweat (see Ipecac)
An asthmatic cough with wheezing and frothy expectoration. There is burning expectoration or sensation, with constricted airways, making breathing difficult. The patient is very chilly, restless, anxious and may be sweaty, with marked exhaustion. The patient feels worse after midnight and is sensitive to cold.
A short, dry tickling cough, with sudden onset and worse at night. The cough lubricates the throat a little, but it dries out again and causes sudden violent spasms of coughing. There is tickling, burning or a scraped sensation in the throat. Belladonna symptoms are aggressive and can include high temperatures with a flushed face, staring eyes, swollen glands and red or inflamed membranes.
A hard dry cough with soreness in the chest, where the patient clutches at their chest to ease the stitching pains caused by coughing. Bryonia symptoms are clearly better for hard pressure and keeping still. All symptoms are accompanied by dryness and are worse for any motion (including eating or drinking). Warm air aggravates and entering a room can trigger a bout of coughing. The patient wants to take a deep breath and sigh, but this is too painful and they are irritable, thirsty and want to be left alone. The cough may be caused by exposure to cold dry winds and builds up slowly over a few days. Always wants to lie on the painful side.
Tickling cough, dry at night and loose in the morning with easy expectoration. Cough aggravated by various activities like eating or playing. Will suit the chubby, sweaty Calc-carb type of patient.
[REDACTED]. Spasmodic cough ending in retching and even vomiting. Cough from deep in the chest forcing the patient to clutch their abdomen on coughing. A choking cough with bouts following each other so rapidly that it is difficult to breathe. Cough is triggered by tickling in the throat and wakes patient from sleep. Worse lying down, after midnight, after getting warm in bed (see also Ip, Ant-t).
Also see the Whooping Cough page on this website.
The early stage of a respiratory infection, or colds which head rapidly for the chest and ear resulting in bronchitis or otitis. A very common remedy in children’s coughs which start with a fever and flushed face, followed by a short painful tickling cough with soreness over the sternum. Blood-streaked sputum or nosebleeds may be reported. Also covers croupy coughs.
Croup from cold, dry winds or cold air. Cough is triggered by any part of the body being exposed. Choking spells of coughing. The Hepar patient is very sensitive to cold air, or cold in any form, and is especially irritably, although they are much better for warmth or humid weather. This is an important croup remedy in children.
Dry, hacking, spasmodic cough, where the more the patient coughs, the more the irritation. [REDACTED] (see Dros). They are unable to take a full breath and sigh frequently.
Suffocative coughs, [REDACTED], coughs with choking or gagging (compare Antim tart, Drosera). Cough incessant and violent with each breath. Stiff and blue in the face with choking cough. Rattling cough with very little expectoration. Coughs accompanied by nausea or nosebleed. Wheezing coughs that recur annually.
A barking, hacking cough with rales of white sticky or ropy mucus, the consistency of egg-white, and hoarseness. A croupy cough with tickling in the throat and accumulation of tough mucus. It may be triggered by undressing.
A tickling cough, with shortness of breath and fan-like motion of nostrils at each intake. Tickling cough accompanied a throbbing headache with each bout of coughing.
A dry teasing cough with a sore chest, where colds usually settle. An immobile, feverish patient who is very sensitive to being uncovered. There is a spasmodic cough, with retching, which causes a headache and a bruised sensation around the navel. The patient is oversensitive, irritable and is worse in cold, dry, windy weather.
An exhausting and violent, dry and tickling cough with irritation deep in the throat. The cough may be triggered by laughing, talking or by a change in temperature, e.g. going out or coming in. There is a bursting pain in the head, a tight painful chest and pain may spread to abdomen. The patient may clutch their head, chest or abdomen on coughing. They can’t lie on their left side and are usually anxious, seek reassurance and feel chilly, but want cold drinks.
This is a gagging, choking cough that comes and goes. It is dry at night and loose in the morning, worse and night and on lying down, causing the patient to sit up or use extra pillows. The chest feels sore, they can’t lie on their left side and there may be spurts of urine passed with coughing. The cough is triggered by coming into a warm room or by breathing in. This patient needs reassurance or sympathy and a child will be weepy and clingy. Fresh air helps, while a closed room aggravates symptoms.
A dry teasing cough from tickling in the chest, which is triggered by uncovering the smallest part, even a hand. It is a dry, night cough with a bloody taste, although no blood is seen. The patient must move about as it is worse at rest and from cold, wet weather.
A violent cough with thick, yellow expectoration, with retching and gagging, that is worse on rising. The expectoration is only at night or only in the morning and the patient is tired and indifferent.
A strong desire for fresh air accompanies this suffocative cough which is worse at night with the rush of blood to head and chest. There is a burning feeling on the face and chest, with red lips and eyelids. The patient feels worse after a bath and has burning feet which are stuck out of the end of the bed.
Many of these remedies can be found in simple home-use remedy kits that can be obtained from these Homeopathic Pharmacies.
Randomised Controlled Tests of Homeopathy and Coughs
RCTs are the third, and decidedly the least important type of evidence supporting Homeopathy as a medical therapy.
Frass, M, Dielacher, C, Linkesch, M, Endler, C, Muchitsch, I, Schuster, E, Kaye, A.. Influence of potassium dichromate on tracheal secretions in critically ill patients, Chest, March, 2005.
This interesting study, with seriously ill patients on respirators in an intensive care unit, showed that homeopathy not only effectively reduced their respiratory secretions but also helped them come off their respirators more quickly. The length of time they spent in the unit was also shorter and without respiratory complications. In contrast, those in the control group, who had not received homeopathic treatment, took considerably longer to recover. Some also had to be returned to the respirator after extubation because they were struggling to breath from excessive secretions in their airways – something that was not a problem for the homeopathic group. As excess respiratory secretions are a major trigger for coughs, the homeopathic treatment would also have reduced the incidence of coughs – something that is also substantiated clinically.
Steinsbekk, A, Fønnebø, V, Lewith, G, and Bentzen, N. Homeopathic care for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections in children: A pragmatic, randomised, controlled trial comparing individualised homeopathic care and waiting-list controls. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 13, Issue 4 , December 2005, Pages 231-238.
This study of children with upper respiratory tract infections, including coughs, showed that those who received homeopathic treatment recovered much more quickly than those who were treated conventionally in the control group.
Trichard, M, Chaufferin, Nicoloyannis, N., Pharmacoeconomic Comparison Between Homeopathic and Antibiotic Treatment Strategies in Recurrent Acute Rhinopharyngitis in Children, Homeopathy (2005)94, 3-9.
A third study showed that those children whose colds (and accompanying coughs) were treated with homoeopathy were more likely to feel and do better than those children whose colds had been treated conventionally. The homeopathically treated children had fewer complications, and their parents took significantly less sick-leave than the parents of those children treated with antibiotics.
A further study is this one:
Homeopathic medicine for acute cough in upper respiratory tract infections and acute bronchitis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Conclusion. We concluded that the homeopathic syrup employed in the study was able to effectively reduce cough severity and sputum viscosity, thereby representing a valid remedy for the management of acute cough induced by URTIs.