A cough is the body's attempt to expel an irritant from the respiratory tract. The lungs build up a pressure of air that is released suddenly in an attempt to dislodge the cause of irritation. A cough either produces mucus or is dry. Irritation of the lining of the airway may be caused by catarrh dripping down the back of the throat, smoking, or atmospheric particles. Coughing can also be triggered by a shock or fright.

SELF-HELP Humidify all rooms. If you smoke, stop. Avoid dusty, smoky places and going out in cold, damp weather. Rest and drink a lot, especially hot water with fresh lemon juice and a little honey. If you are producing copious catarrh, avoid dairy products and starchy foods, which may increase mucus production. Try homeopathic or herbal over-the-counter cough mixtures.

CAUTION If a cough is accompanied by breathing difficulties, fever, or chest pain, see a doctor. If it results from inhaling dust or fumes, and does not improve within two days, see a doctor.

Dry, irritating cough that comes on suddenly

Cough with chest pain

Cough with thick, green catarrh

Dry, hollow-sounding, croaky cough Great thirst

Possible rapid rise in temperature

Bursting headache, aggravated by even the slightest cough, possibly with fever Extreme thirst, usually for warm drinks, but at infrequent intervals Whole body feels dehydrated

Thick, green, bitter-tasting catarrh is coughed up, leaving an unpleasant taste in the mouth Poor appetite

Tongue has a white coating

Green, bland catarrh may issue from the nose

Little or no thirst

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