Coughing can be one of the more obvious and annoying symptoms of asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions, including hay fever. But where previously coughing or using a tissue in public would have been met with empathy or simply gone unnoticed, many people are now facing suspicion and stigma. So how do you respond in these situations? 

What is coughing caused by? 

Coughing is the body’s way of trying to clear the lungs by expelling air and any mucus or other irritants up the throat and past the larynx. This can sometimes irritate the larynx, causing it to be inflamed, which in turn stimulates the body to cough more.  

Is it normal? 

If your coughing is a normal symptom of your respiratory condition and you know how to manage it, then take the recommended steps in your Action Plan. 

Generally speaking, it is not normal to cough consistently or regularly if your condition is under control. You should speak to your GP or other health care team to assess what is going on and what adjustments to medications might be needed.  You may also benefit from seeing a Speech Pathologist that specialises in cough suppression techniques, to help you gain more control over your cough. A productive cough (produces mucus or phlegm) is also not common for asthma and should receive medical attention. 

But it’s just my asthma cough. 

If you are coughing consistently while out and about, wearing a face mask and coughing into your elbow may make you and those around you feel a bit more comfortable. It also protects others in the off chance it is actually something contagious. It would be perfectly acceptable to also inform those around you that ‘it’s just my normal asthma cough’ or ask your GP for an explanatory letter if it becomes an issue at work, visiting higher-risk health settings, or other situations. 

How to reduce coughing. 

Aside from seeking assistance from your GP, there are a few ways to help soothe an inflamed larynx and reduce coughing. These include: 

  • Breathe through your nose 
  • Don’t smoke or vape 
  • Avoid deliberate throat clearing 
  • Taking sips of water 
  • Gargle or drink water after using your inhaler 
  • Suck on non menthol lollies or chew gum to promote saliva flow 

Do I have COVID-19? 

If your cough is not normal and you have other symptoms of COVID-19, you should physically isolate yourself and take a COVID-19 test. If your result is positive, call your GP for guidance on what to do next. 

When to call an ambulance. 

If you are ever struggling to breathe, you should not hesitate to call Triple-Zero (000) immediately and inform them of your symptoms and existing respiratory condition(s). 

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