Body & Fitness

What’s causing your cough?

Nasty coughs are common at this time of year, but they're not just caused by seasonal bugs. Here's an overview of different types of coughs and what could be causing them.

Chronic tickly cough

Symptoms: You don’t have any phlegm but you feel like mucus is dripping down the back of your throat.

Cause: Post-nasal drip. oucus normally drips unnoticed down the back of your throat, but if it becomes thick or there’s a lot of it – which is often the result of having an allergy or a cold – it can trigger a cough.

Treatment: over-the-counter treatments may give quick relief. If you suspect it’s due to an allergy, you may want to see a specialist for allergy tests.

Barking cough

Symptoms: You sound like a sea lion. It often happens at night and you may wheeze, but there’s unlikely to be phlegm.

Cause: It may be the legacy of a cold or the flu and is thought to be caused by inflammation in the airways.

Treatment: It usually goes away by itself after a few weeks. Lozenges increase saliva, which coat and soothe a sore throat. You could also ease the symptoms by inhaling steam.

Hacking cough

Symptoms: A nasty cough in which you bring up thick yellowy-green coloured mucus. It’s usually worse first thing in the morning.

Cause: It’s often due to acute bronchitis – an infection of the airways.

Treatment: Drinking fluid will help to thin the mucus, making it easier to cough up. over-the-counter cough medicines can also relieve the coughing.

Dry cough with a wheeze

Symptoms: It’s worse at night or first thing in the morning and is accompanied by a wheeze.

Cause: Asthma is a possibility. If you have asthma and your airway is irritated, the muscles around it tighten.

Treatment: Inhalers open the airways and make it easier to breathe. In severe cases steroids may be prescribed.

Chesty cough

Symptoms: Lots of phlegm, wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. It’s worse in the mornings and winter.

Cause: It could be Chronic obstructive Pulmonary Disease (CoPD) – the name given to a variety of lung conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is often caused by smoking.

Treatment: There’s no cure, but damage can be slowed. Inhalers can often help with breathlessness, while steam inhalation can loosen mucus.

See a doctor if:

  • You have shortness of breath as well as a cough.

  • Your cough has lasted for weeks and is not getting better.

  • You’re coughing up blood or rust-coloured phlegm.

  • You have a sharp pain or dull ache in your chest when you cough.

other possible causes:

  • Lung diseases

  • Whooping cough

Health watch:

  • Here’s another reason to eat an apple a day. New research shows a substance found in apple peel reduces muscle waste and promotes muscle growth in mice. It may also reduce fat, blood-sugar levels, cholesterol and triglycercides.

  • Having a dog or cat doesn’t increase children’s chances of developing allergies, and in fact may decrease them, according to a new study. Researchers found children who lived with a cat in the first year of their lives halved their risks of becoming sensitive to them later in life.

Related stories


Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.