When is cough helpful or not helpful?

Person coughing

When is cough helpful?

It is important for the patient/client to learn how to control their cough.

  • Use cough sparingly to help clear sputum, with rests in between, by practising the Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques or Autogenic Drainage, taught by a physiotherapist.
  • This will loosen the sputum and move it so that sputum can be cleared with 1 or 2 coughs, not 20.

When is cough not helpful?

  • If cough causes bronchoconstriction, distress or coughing fits.
  • Sometimes coughing becomes a habit. There is little or no sputum to clear but the cough will not stop.
  • When a cough persists for weeks after the infection has cleared.
  • When the upper airways are dry and irritable in people who breathe through their mouth rather than their nose.
  • When drug deposits in upper airway, it can cause irritation, thrush or hoarse voice. This is often due to poor inhaler technique, especially when using a steroid inhaler.
  • Constant coughing makes the upper airways sore, red and swollen causing more irritation, airway obstruction, wheeze and more coughing.