Tips to Help Ease COPD and Chronic Cough Attacks
Adjust Your Medications
Some medications are good for a cough (certain medicated cough syrups, for example), some are neutral (like corticosteroids), but some are quite bad for your cough. If you’re taking long-acting anticholinergics (like Spiriva) to relax your airways, your cough reflex can become very sensitive, leading to a nagging, constant cough.
Luckily, there are other options, so speak to your doctor about alternative types of bronchodilators (like long-acting beta-agonists) to treat your COPD symptoms.
The more water you drink, the better hydrated your body will be, and the thinner your mucus will become. Thin mucus is much easier to clear out of your lungs than thick mucus, which means you stand a better chance of clearing your airways with a few controlled coughs, and can then enjoy some easy breathing.
Remember that caffeinated and alcoholic beverage don’t count as water: they are diuretics, which encourage your body to expel more water, leaving your tissues and mucus membranes less hydrated.
Try Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Strengthening the respiratory system and improving lung efficiency is a long-term solution for chronic cough. Although activity can lead to more coughing, pulmonary rehabilitation is a targeted therapy that safely challenges the limits of your lungs to improve your energy levels and endurance. As the muscles in your chest and around your airways get stronger, you can achieve more force and efficiency with each cough.
Living with COPD can increase your chances of developing GERD, where stomach acid travels up and into the esophagus, and in some cases, further up into the vocal cords. Almost 50% of COPD patients also suffer from GERD, making them more prone to exacerbations and inflammation of the throat, which will worsen their cough.
If you suspect dealing with COPD and GERD is adding to your cough, you may need to adjust your medications, but changes to your diet can make a big difference, too. First, cut out any foods that contribute to acid reflex: spicy ingredients, alcohol, caffeine, citrus fruits, tomatoes, garlic, and peppermint are common culprits.
Of course, every stomach is a little different, and you may notice other foods bring on heartburn and indigestion. Make a list of your trigger foods, and use it to guide your food choices each and every day.
Take Control of Your COPD Care
Unfortunately, the assessment and treatment of COPD cough have taken a backseat to other prominent discomforts, like breathlessness and fatigue. It’s not that doctors aren’t aware of COPD cough, but rather that a chronic cough with COPD isn’t always recognized as a disabling symptom. In order to get the relief and advice you need, you may have to speak up for yourself a bit more.
Explain to your doctor exactly how your COPD and chronic cough are interfering in your life, and be specific about what you’re feeling – physically and emotionally. Do the same with your family and peer support groups, so they can find a better way to empathize and help you get some relief. Good support is incredibly important for a better quality of life with COPD, but you need to reach out for that helping hand.