The word cough isn’t new to anyone; it is one of the most common symptoms.
Definition: Cough can be defined as a body’s reflex mechanism which helps to clear secretions, irritants, foreign particles that irritates or impedes the airway or windpipe. The cough reflex consists of three phases: an inhalation, a forced exhalation against a closed glottis, and a violent release of air from the lungs following opening of the glottis, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound. Coughing is either voluntary or involuntary. Frequent coughing usually indicates the presence of a disease.
Cough is a symptom, and not a disease, nature of cough determines the specific disease along with other associated symptoms. It spreads viruses and bacteria to new hosts and manifest the disease through droplet infection. Cough could be a symptom of either respiratory problem / digestive problem / cardiac problem.
Nature of Cough
- Productive cough – A productive cough produces phlegm or mucus (sputum). The mucus may have drained down the back of the throat from the nose or sinuses or may have come up from the lungs. A productive cough generally should not be suppressed-it clears mucus from the lungs.
- Nonproductive / Dry cough – It is dry and does not produce sputum. A dry, hacking cough may develop toward the end of a cold or after exposure to an irritant, as dust or smoke.
- Recent upper airway infections, such as the common cold and flu
- ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors – medications used to control blood pressure
- Exposure to cold or humid conditions or cold air.
- Allergic inflammation of the nose or sinuses leading to postnasal drip
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease / emphysema / chronic bronchitis / pneumonia / bronchitis / Asthma
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Infectious heart conditions and heart failure
- Due to increased activity / exercises
- Cigarette smoking
- Exposure to smoke / dust / strong odors
- Blockage of the airway by an inhaled object.
- Entry of food particle / a pill in the wrong passage.
- Intake of very dry foods.
- Control of sneezing and other natural urges.
Treatment in Ayurveda:
Cough can be correlated to Kasa Raga where there is a disturbance of prana and Udana Vayu and avalambaka kapha. The pathogenesis starts as disturbance in the digestive system leading to the ama formation, which moves to the region of chest causing imbalance in prana and udana vayu leading to cough.
Ayurveda classifies cough as 5 types based on the dosha involvement.
- Vataja kasa(Nonproductive cough)
- Pittaja kasa
- Kaphaja kasa (Productive cough)
- Kshataja kasa (Due to increased exercise / injury)
- Kshayaja kasa (Associated with deep rooted health issues)
Symptoms of vataja kasa
- Pains in the cardiac region, head, in the flanks, lungs and in chest,
- Dryness of chest.
- Continuous husky and dry cough
- Lack of enthusiasm, tiredness, feeble voice
Symptoms of Pittaja kasa
- Burning sensation in the chest / body, fever, dryness and bitter taste in the mouth.
- Yellowish and bitter vomitus like phlegm.
- sour taste feeling in the mouth,
- Feeling feverish.
Symptoms of Kaphaja kasa
- Thick expectoration whitish in color.
- Increased secretion of saliva
- Heaviness in the head / body
- Loss of appetite strength
Symptoms of Kshayaja kasa
- Cough with excess purulent sputum with blood
- Dryness in the body
- Severe weakness in the body.
- Generalized body ache with burning sensation.
Symptoms of Kshataja kasa
- Dry cough, occasional blood in sputum.
- Pricking pain in the chest and throat, multiple joints
- Increased respiratory rate.
Treatment in Ayurveda:
- Evaluate the cause.
- Correcting Agni – Pitta
- Regulating the flow of Prana and Udana Vayu
- Improving resistance.
Treatments – The treatment modalities include panchakarma, external therapies, internal medications, Activities, Advice of food and life style changes.
Panchakarma – Vamana, Virechana, Nasya
Externally – Lepas, Dhara, Sthanika Abhyanga and Sweda
Internally – Administration of internal medications should be at frequent intervals.
Herbs which helps in correcting and maintaining Agni
Herbs that help the regulation of Vata functioning
Specific Rasayana for strengthening as Amalaki (Embilicus officinalis), Ash gourd (Benincasa hispida)
Specific Asanas, Pranayama, Meditation, Chest physiotherapy.
Intake of warm food and easily digestible food
Use warm water for drinking.
Avoid exposure to cold breeze.
Intake of Cumin, Garlic in food helps in improving digestion
Lifestyle changes: specific to the individual’s constitution, nature of work and geographical conditions.