What is your ideal cough suppressant

Coughing in COPD - what to do?

This article was written according to journalistic and scientific standards and was reviewed by our medical advisor Prof. Dr. Ulrich Cegla (pulmonologist) checked.

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Last updated: 16.06.2020 | easier-breathe editorial team

Cough is the main symptom of COPD - which cough suppressants and techniques will reduce your discomfort and help you cough up.

It mainly affects long-term smokers: Chronic cough is the first sign that shows itself in the course of a COPD illness.

For most patients, coughing up thick phlegm is part of their daily routine. What actually serves to clean the airways can be a major burden for those affected: Strong coughing attacks can cause chest pain or shortness of breath. Some people even cough until they vomit. The effective treatment of the cough is therefore an important part of therapy in COPD.

In this post we will show you

  • what means to relieve the cough in COPD,
  • how to mobilize tough mucus in the bronchi and
  • how to properly cough.

The slime has to get out!

In COPD, the chronic cough is a consequence of the increasing build-up of mucus in the lower respiratory tract: Through the cough, the bronchi try to get rid of this disruptive factor. The cough is therefore much more than just an annoying process. Ideally, it loosens stuck mucus from the bronchial walls and conveys it out of the bronchial tubes as sputum.

The high viscosity of the secretion however, makes it difficult for many patients to cough up. Basically, the following applies: the thicker the mucus, the stronger the urge to cough and the harder it is to cough up.

The aim of cough therapy is therefore to mobilize the mucus and move it out of the bronchi. Certain remedies and coughing techniques will help you with this.

Cough with sputum - What color and consistency reveal about possible causes

Medicines: cough remover & Co.

  • Long-acting bronchodilators expand the bronchi and thus ensure an improved supply of oxygen. When it comes to relieving coughs in COPD, these basic therapy drugs are the most effective. Your pulmonologist will determine the right preparation. It is important to take it regularly and use the correct inhalation technique.
  • Cough remover (Mucopharmaceuticals), e.g. B. with the active ingredients N-acetylcysteine, ambroxol or cineol are available as capsules, tablets or cough syrup. They liquefy the mucus and can be helpful for certain patient groups. However, the guidelines do not recommend them as standard therapy for COPD. Advantages and disadvantages must be weighed up with the attending physician in each individual case.
  • Also herbal supplements or hot teas with thyme, ivy, Icelandic moss or fennel have an expectorant effect.

Cough suppressants (Antitussives, also: cough blockers) suppress the urge to cough. Coughing up mucus is an important process that COPD patients shouldn't suppress if possible. In the case of COPD, cough suppressants are therefore only administered in exceptional cases over a limited period of time and in consultation with the attending physician.

Coughing properly for COPD

Coughing is an important reflex that - if used correctly - cleanses your airways and removes irritant particles. Strong, unchecked cough can, however, also strain the bronchi and z. B. cause small tears in the bronchial mucosa. The airways, which are already irritated in COPD, are further damaged as a result.

You should therefore convey stuck secretions out of the bronchi as gently as possible. You can do this by first mobilizing the mucus and then coughing up using certain techniques.

1. Mobilize secretion

In order to keep the mucus in the bronchi as fluid as possible, are very general Exercise and hydration important. Physical activity loosens your rib cage and also causes the bronchi to move on their own. If you also drink 2 liters a day, it promotes the natural flow of mucus in your airways - warm herbal teas are particularly recommended.

If you suffer from a very thick bronchial secretion, special ones will help you Respiratory therapy equipmentto loosen the mucus from the bronchial walls (e.g. RC-Cornet®, Flutter VRP 1®). In the case of COPD, these devices are usually reimbursable. Talk to your treating doctor!

Respiratory therapy devices for asthma and COPD

2. Cough up with the brakes

By using the cough brake you can reduce the strong pressure that arises when coughing unchecked:

  1. Try to sit upright as possible.
  2. Do not cough until you can already feel the secretion relatively high up in your chest or throat.
  3. Form a hand into a fist and cough with puffed cheeks into the tunnel between your thumb and forefinger. Do not let any air escape from the side.

Other coughing techniques: Cough up effectively and gently