5 Types of Cough - Characteristics, Causes, and How to Help

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I don’t know about you, but I have become intimate with deciphering different sounding coughs since having kids. The other week my son awoke in the middle of the night with a barking cough, and (since it wasn’t the first time) I knew just what to do. Knowledge, and being prepared, is power in cases like this.

Is it a chesty cough? Tickling cough? Barking cough? Dry cough? Wet cough Whooping cough? Each one is a clue as to what the body needs to recover and get back to health. Let’s decode them so you can better understand them, and be prepared.

What is a cough?

First off, a cough is a rapid expulsion of air (voluntary or involuntary) from the lungs. When involuntary, a cough occurs when the air passages are irritated by fluid, mucus or material.

An acute cough lasts less than three weeks. A chronic cough lasts longer than eight weeks (in an adult) and four weeks (in a child). Since younger kids are not able to cough up and spit out mucus, coughs typically last a couple weeks after most upper respiratory infections.


Tickling Cough

The most common type of cough, it feels as though something is tickling the back of your throat. It is non productive, meaning it produces little or no phlegm. Most often caused by cold, flu, hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Post nasal drip can also cause a cough reflex. Our Dry Cough Syrup soothes and coats to help ease a tickly cough.

Dry Cough

Very similar to a tickly cough, and also non productive. A dry cough occurs due to irritants in the air passages from colds, flu, hay fever, asthma, bronchitis and acid reflux. Dry Cough Syrup soothes and coats to help ease a dry cough.

Chesty Cough

Also known as a wet, phlegmy, or congested cough. This cough is productive and brings up clumps of mucus when the person coughs. A chesty cough is caused by colds, flu and other respiratory viruses and bacteria, it can also occur after a sore throat. Chesty coughs are often worse in the morning as the mucus pools in the air passages while sleeping and upon waking our body wants to expel the mucus. Congestion Relief Syrup helps dry up and expel mucus.

Barking or Croup Cough

Characterized by a cough that sounds like a seal’s bark, as well as a high pitched whistling sound (stridor) on the in breath. A croup cough occurs when there’s swelling in the upper airways around the bronchial tubes, larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe). Most often it is a result of a virus (cold, RSV or flu), occasionally it can result from bacteria. Typically croup occurs in younger children (under 5) because their airways are smaller. Homeopathic Spongia Tosta (discount code TASHAROSE) is my go to, along with Elderberry Syrup and doTERRA Breathe blend. and has worked for us multiple times. Focus on anti-inflammatories like ginger, turmeric and/or mint. Most children feel better in three to five days and recover at home.

Whooping Cough

A severe hacking cough that is followed by an in breath that sounds like a “whoop.” Also known as pertussis, this is a highly contagious bacterial infection. Pertussis can be dangerous to infants and should be taken seriously as the coughing spells can make it hard for them to breathe. The typical course of pertussis runs about two weeks or more and starts as a dry, hacking cough with some cold symptoms that turn into long coughing spasms. Antibiotics are often used.

Additional Supports

Rest, the most important. Healing is an active process for the body and requires energy. I let our kids rest, watch tv, and we usually have a picnic lunch outside to get some grounding and sunshine in too.

Nasal spray, if your kids will let you, mine won’t, but I always use it when my kids catch something. I like Xlear brand.

Half an organic onion next to the bed at night to promote the thinning of mucous.

Herbal or propolis throat spray

Diffusing essential oils

Nebulizer with saline solution

I hope this helps and you are prepared next time a cough shows up.

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