Stuffy Nose and Cough

Winter has arrived, bringing with it the gift of common cold resulting in stuffy nose and cough. But common cold is not the only culprit responsible for these bothersome symptoms, they can also result from allergies and some other conditions like asthma, sinusitis, flu and respiratory tract infections.These symptoms are very common and affect a large number of people yearly.

Common Culprits of Your Stuffy Nose and Cough

For effective treatment it is important to understand the reason of these symptoms. Common causes include:

  • Common cold:The cold begins when the virus attaches itself to the lining of your nose and throat. It gets inflamed and produces a lot of mucus resulting in stuffy nose or cough. The symptoms are usually mild and last for seven to ten days.
  • Flu: Flu is caused by Influenza virus, which is different from cold virus; it has similar symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue and body aches. Most of people getting better in a couple of weeks' time. However, sometimes flu can lead to bacterial infection involving the sinuses or the lungs requiring medical attention.
  • Bacterial infections: A stuffy nose and cough is the hallmark of all respiratory tract infections. Bacterial infections are characterized by a persistent cough producing variable amounts of yellow or greenish yellow sputum and high grade fever. They need to be treated with antibiotics.
  • Allergies: Allergies are caused by an over active immune system, the body mistakes harmless substances such as pollen and dust as an invading agent and activates the defence mechanism. Allergies can make the lining of airways hypersensitive and engorged, resulting in stuffy nose and occasionally cough. Symptoms also include watery eyes, runny nose,and sneezing. There is generally no fever, headache or fatigue. Allergies are not contagious and the symptoms can last for a very long time.

Remedies for Stuffy Nose and Cough

Here are a few tried and tested remedies for fast and effective relief,

1. Antihistamines

It is histamine that is mainly responsible for producing symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing.Over the counter antihistamines are very effective against them. They are equally effective in controlling cough and opening up a blocked nose caused by either infections or allergies. However, they can make you sleepy and cause dryness of mouth and dizziness in some people.

2. Cough Suppressants & Expectorants

Medicines like dextromethorphan suppress the cough centre in brain providing relief for some time. Expectorants help in thinning out the phlegm for easy clearance. They are effective but should be taken with caution to avoid side effects like drowsiness.

3. Lozenges

Lozenges come in all shapes and flavours, they act by numbing the back of the throat to suppress cough reflex. They are reasonably effective, and can be purchased as over the counter medicines.

4. Steam Inhalation

Inhaling warm soothing steam helps some people instantly. Camomile or peppermint can be added for a pleasant effect. Since it is a nuisance to have a blocked nose, anything that soothes the inflamed nasal membrane is a helpful option.

5. Increased Fluid Intake

Drinking extra fluids will help to thin the mucus for easy drainage, and clear your sinuses. Water, broth and herbal tea will also warm the airways and improve breathing. Besides, nothing provides more comfort than a warm bowl of chicken soup when you are sick with cold fighting with a stuffy nose and cough.

6. Nasal Sprays

Since the virus causes the lining of nose and throat to swell up, decongestant nasal sprays can help to reduce the swelling and ease breathing. Different nasal sprays contain different decongestants as active ingredients.

They offer immediate relief from a blocked or stuffy nose but should not be taken for longer duration. Taking them for a long time can result in insensitivity of nasal lining and persistent rhinitis. They are also associated with some side effects like dizziness, headache and light headedness.

7. Salt Water Rinse and Gargles

Mix a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of baking soda in a glass of warm water. Gargles with this will sooth the raw throat and rinsing your nose with it will result in easing the congestion, providing instant relief from stuffy nose and cough.

8. Other Remedies

  • Mentholated salve: Eucalyptus, Menthol and Camphor have the ability to open up congested nasal passages. They have also got mild numbing properties; a little dab under the nose can make a big difference.
  • Putting an extra pillow: It is hard to sleep with a blocked nose, try to put an extra pillow under your head to keep it elevated and nasal passages open.
  • Herbal products like Echinacea have been used as a cold treatment since ages with a claim to boost immune system but no definitive study is available regarding their efficacy. They may help if taken as soon as the symptoms appear.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

It is best to talk to your doctor if your stuffy nose and coughing is getting worst, and any or all of the following symptoms appear:

  • High grade fever, chest pain and difficulty in breathing
  • Green or greenish yellow snoot or phlegm with persistent cough
  • Persistent sore throat and pus on tonsils
  • Severe headaches for several days
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