When you’re suffering from a persistent cough, it doesn’t take long before things get out of hand. It’s disturbing your sleep, irritating everyone around you (let’s face it, no one likes to hear that), and in the current climate, gets you a whole host of dirty looks thrown your way as people automatically assume, “you’ve got the virus.”
Of course, with the infection rates going up and many people not even displaying symptoms, there’s a small chance you may have crossed paths with someone who has COVID-19, but I’m going to assume here you’ve been careful, are self-isolating with your family, and your cough is just a normal one that needs a little care to bring under control. That being said, wearing a facemask if you're displaying symptoms is probably a good idea at this time.
Now, I do want to say that if you are experiencing any symptoms, especially a fever, dry cough, and tiredness, which leads to difficulty breathing, you may want to get to a doctor and get tested. If it’s just a cough, well that’s where these remedies come in, all the best ways you can use to treat a stubborn cough without risking a trip to the doctor’s office during a pandemic. I don’t know about you, but I definitely think that’s a good thing right now.
Honey and lemon tea
Studies have proven honey to be more effective as a cough suppressant than dextromethorphan, and ingredient commonly found in most over-the-counter medicines for treating a stubborn cough. As a parent, I’d much rather give my kids a drink of warm honey than a bunch of chemicals, especially when the results are better as well. All you need to do is take a warm herbal tea, like peppermint or chamomile, add two teaspoons of honey and squeeze of fresh lemon, before the hot water. Let it sit and cool and drink.
If you’re not a honey or lemon fan, chamomile tea on its own is a well-known stress reliever, and the soothing and anti-inflammatory effects can also ease a persistent cough. Not only will it help you sleep better, getting the rest you need to overcome the illness, there are a wide variety of health benefits. Chamomile can help everything from high blood sugar, insulin levels, and also aids in the treatment of depression and has antibacterial properties. It’s so good we even give it to our kids sometimes (there’s no caffeine), to help them calm down after a particularly exciting day. They love “sipping” on tea like we do.
When my wife was pregnant with my first daughter my love affair with ginger tea began. She used it to treat her nausea, as a herbal tea I was boiling up a pot of fresh ginger almost daily to help manage her morning sickness. But when I started researching, I discovered that this tea was also a critical element that fights inflammation in the body, and can help to stimulate the immune system, two things you need when you’re fighting a cough. These days we cook up a fresh batch most weeks, and store it in the fridge to reheat when we need a warm glass. It’s super easy, and I’m sure a reason why we get sick a lot less now.
I discovered this tree when I was travelling Australia, and ever since we’ve stocked up on the eucalyptus oils for use in the diffusers around our home. But when me or the family are all blocked up with a cold, one of the best remedies I’ve found is a simple one. Head to the bathroom with a kettle of boiling water. Add a couple of drops of oil to the sink and pour the water over it. Cover it all with your head, and spend ten minutes breathing the oil-infused steam. For my kids, I just add a couple of drops in a diffuser in their rooms, and it helps them sleep soundly through the night, even when they’re a bit sick.
Salt water gargles
Particularly useful for a wet cough, I will always recommend a salt water gargle if you’ve got a sore throat and the beginnings of a cold coming on. The salt water kills off much of the bacteria that is building, reducing the amount of phlegm and mucus in your throat which naturally makes you less inclined to cough. All you need to do is add about a teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water, stir it until it dissolves, and gargle. Leave it in your mouth until it starts to trickle into your throat (usually about a count of 10 seconds), then spit it out. I’ll do this several times a day, and my sore throat and cough clears up fast.
Hydrate more than normal
Finally, and this should be a given, but it bears mention. You need to stay hydrated. Most people don’t drink enough water on a good day, and when you’re sick your body needs additional fluids to help flush the bacteria and virus from your body. Drink more water than you believe you need, as the water will help stop you from drying out from a cough. Aim to have at least 8 glasses of water a day (I keep a large bottle on my desk that I always aim to finish), and that’s in addition to the coffee and teas I normally drink. At the start you may feel like this is too much fluid, but you’ll quickly adapt and start feeling great.
Fighting off a stubborn cough doesn’t always require a trip to the doctor’s office, but please be sensible. If you’re conditions are worsening or you’ve got additional symptoms (especially a fever), do yourself and your loved ones a favor and maintain good hygiene, distance yourself from them, and act as if you’ve been infected until you get the good results back from your testing and it shows there was never anything to worry about. It’s better to be safe than sorry, I always say.