When you have a cough, what do you do? Wait for two to three days before reaching out for the cough syrup in your kitchen cabinet? Do you know if it is effective enough for the type of cough you suffer from? Okay, before you answer that, do you even know what type of cough you have? In this post, Dr Mehul Thakkar, renowned pulmonologist tells you more about ‘productive or wet cough’ or ‘cough with phlegm’ (also called ‘balgam’ in hindi) – how to identify it, how it is caused and what you can do about it.
Productive cough can be caused due to a number of factors. Some of them include -
Here are 7 things you should avoid when you’re suffering from a cough.
A classic symptom of productive cough is coughing with sputum or phlegm production. Phlegm usually contains mucus with bacteria, debris or dead tissue, and sloughed-off cells. Other symptoms include -
- Heaviness in the chest
- Slight to severe breathlessness
- Runny nose
- Drainage of mucus into the throat
Read about when should you start worrying about cough that persists?
The diagnosis of productive cough is usually very easy. The doctor will ask the patient about his/her symptoms, listen to the patient’s chest sounds or breathing to check for any sign of congestion or difficulty in breathing (identified by a raspy intake of air).
In cases where the doctor suspects other causes, he/she may order further tests including a sputum sample, blood tests and chest x-ray. That being said, it is essential that one go to the doctor at the earliest to minimize complications due to underlying diseases.
Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease.
Treatments for wet cough are mainly aimed at relieving the congestion in the chest. OTC (over the counter) expectorants can provide some relief. Along with other medication the cause of the cough should also be treated. Here's everything you should know about how to treat a cough.
For example, asthma is treated with inhaled bronchodilators that may or may not contain inhaled steroids, pneumonia and lung abscess are treated with antibiotics etc. In the case of a condition called bronchitis, there are prescription medicines that contain bronchodilators, or inhalers that contain steroids.
There are also tablets available which contain these bronchodilators and steroids. If the situation is severe, there are injectables available. Here are some instant remedies to combat cough.
In some cases where the congestion might be severe, a doctor might prescribe mucolytic agents (substances that break down the mucus) like bromhexine or ambroxol, with or without a bronchodilator. These medications are important to provide symptomatic relief.
Read about when do you need antibiotics for cold and cough?
Since productive cough is usually the manifestation of an underlying condition, if left untreated, the condition may worsen leading to multiple complications. For instance, a lung infection might spread to organs and damage them, a patient with asthma or COPD may develop difficulty in breathing etc. Here are 5 tips to deal with cough while traveling.
Excessive cough itself can cause chest and abdominal pain, giddiness, unconsciousness, rupture of organs like esophagus (food pipe), lung (leading to air outside lungs, i.e. pneumothorax) and increase in blood pressure.
You may also like to know about 5 natural remedies for cough and cold that really work!
The content is verified by Dr Mehul Thakkar, consultant pulmonologist at Jupiter Hospital, Hira Mongi Navneet Hospital, Ashirwad Critical Care Unit and Rehmaniya Hospital.