Dry Coughs vs Chesty Cough

There are two basic types of cough Chesty and Dry. A chesty cough is characterised by the presence of mucus or phlegm on the chest, this is absent in a dry cough. The action of coughing is therefore of benefit in the case of a chesty cough as the mucus needs to be moved from the chest. However in a dry cough there is no benefit to coughing.

Chesty coughs are further divided into Productive and Non-Productive. An individual with a productive chesty cough will notice the presence of the mucus on the chest because they are coughing some of this phlegm off their chest. In the case of a non-productive cough the mucus is not being moved from the chest despite the coughing.
If any phlegm coughed up is coloured green/yellow or contains any blood it is important to consult a doctor.

If you are still unsure which type of cough you have talk to your pharmacist about your symptoms, you could use Simple Linctus until you are sure which type of cough you have as it can be safely used in both types of cough, both chesty and dry.

Dry Cough

Dry coughs are best treated with a medicine that stops the urge to cough. The cough has no purpose and the irritation on the chest is more nuisance than benefit. There are several medicines available which have just this action. The medical term for a cough suppressant is an antitussive.

Even though you may have a dry cough, it is still difficult to decide which medicine to use as the choice in this area is so wide. As such, rather that dealing with individual products, we will look at the agents within these products. The main ones are codeine, pholcodine and dextromethorphan.

Productive Chesty Cough

Productive and Non Productive coughs are very similar and as such have similar treatments. The best way of dealing with these coughs is to aid the natural coughing process which is attempting to remove the phlegm from the chest. This is done by use of agents which break the mucus up and make it more runny.

Productive coughs only require gentle assistance from agents such as glycerin. These types of medicines are known as demulcents. Glycerin is found in medicines such as glycerin, honey and lemon. This is popular for this type of cough because of its pleasant taste – unlike most other medicines! There is also the aniseed flavoured simple linctus which can also be used for this cough type.

Non Productive Chesty Cough

Productive and Non Productive coughs are very similar and as such have similar treatments. The best way of dealing with these coughs is to aid the natural coughing process which is attempting to remove the phlegm from the chest. This is done by use of agents which break the mucus up and therefore make it easier to cough the mucus off the chest. Another ingredient often added to products for chesty coughs is Cetylpyridinium which has a breath freshening action since catarrh can affect the odour of the breath.
There are four agents available which have expectorant properties:

  • Ammonium Chloride
  • Guaiphenesin
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Ipecacuanha

Medically these agents are describe as Expectorants.

General Advice for coughs

There are some simple things you can do that will relieve the symptoms of coughs.

  • Inhaling steam helps to break up any phlegm on the chest in the case of a chesty cough. It may also soothe the chest in the case of a dry cough. The steam can also be fragranced with menthol or Olbas Oil to help breathing. Taking a hot bath or shower will expose your chest to natural steam.
  • During the night when coughs are often most trouble, use of a vaporiser in the bedroom may help you get a restful nights sleep.

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