Your kid has been coughing for over two weeks, and the chronic cough does not look like it will end anytime soon.
A cough is one of the symptoms of a respiratory tract infection or a viral infection like the common cold.
According to the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health’s medical research agency in the US, coughs commonly result from allergies involving the nose or sinuses, sinusitis with post-nasal drip, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (where patients have trouble breathing), the common cold or flu, or lung infections like pneumonia and acute bronchitis.
(Also read: 6 ways to boost your child’s immunity)
In more serious cases, coughs can also result from using certain blood pressure medications or are a symptom of heart failure, kidney disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, a digestive disorder where the stomach’s contents flow back up into the oesophagus) and lung diseases.
Is it chronic cough?
Dr Wong Wei Mon, deputy medical director at Raffles Medical, says a cough caused by the common cold and flu should resolve itself within two to eight weeks. But if a persistent cough drags on for more than eight weeks in adults and four weeks in children, it is defined as a chronic cough.
(Also read: What to do when baby won’t stop coughing)
“A chronic cough is more than just an annoyance,” says Dr Wong. “While it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the problem, the most common causes are tobacco use, post-nasal drip, asthma and gastric acid reflux.”
When to worry
If your chronic cough is accompanied by other symptoms like fever, weight loss, shortness of breath upon exertion, wheezing, reflux symptoms or heartburn, Dr Wong says you should see your doctor to check that it isn’t something more serious, like the conditions mentioned above.
(Also read: Can children share medicine?)
“Certain foods, such as fried food, chilli and citrus fruits may irritate the airways, thereby triggering the cough,” says Dr Wong.
But it also depends on the individual. “If you are allergic to foods like milk, fish, shellfish, eggs, yeast, chips, packaged snacks, sugary desserts and nuts, consuming them may cause you to cough,” adds Dr Wong.
“And if your cough is asthmatic in nature, you may want to avoid cold water or chilled food. Grapes, wine, carbonated drinks, processed meats and salads may also contain chemicals that can trigger an asthmatic cough.”
While some believe they should stay away from foods such as chicken, watermelon and dark, leafy vegetables, there’s no evidence to support this belief. “On the contrary, these foods boost your immune system as they are nutritional powerhouses filled with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, which have antioxidant properties.”
Try a home remedy
If you have a raspy cough due to a dry throat, be sure to stay well-hydrated. Dr Wong advises: “Drink plenty of fluids but avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea, as they are mildly diuretic and stimulate urination, causing the body to lose water.”
You can also place a humidifier in your room to reduce coughing bouts that are triggered by dry air and dust.
And boost your immune system by having adequate sleep and exercise to keep your body in an optimal state. “In addition, you should take your annual flu vaccination to protect yourself,” says Dr Wong.
If you prefer Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedies, herbs like codonopsis root (dang shen), cordyceps, lily bulb and ginseng are often recommended as they are believed to boost lung health, which may help prevent coughs.
(Also read: TCM foods for dry eyes, sore throat)
Nourish your lungs with these tonic soups to help your chronic cough
Chinese watercress soup: Packed with antioxidants like vitamins A and C, and chlorophyll, watercress boasts anti-inflammatory properties that are essential for fighting off viruses like the common cold.
White fungus soup: In TCM, white fungus is commonly used to fight dry coughs as it nourishes and moistens the lungs. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe infections.
Chinese pear herbal soup: Considered “cooling” in TCM, pears are said to moisten the body and clear phlegm, which help boost the yin balance in the body.
(Also read: 3 medication mistakes parents make)
This article first appeared in Her World.