Productive cough

Productive cough is associated with sputum (phlegm) or catarrh.
Catarrh is derived:

  • through the nose,
  • in the back of the throat.

Sputum can also be produced in the lungs.
It is very important to secrete mucus from the body and not suppress it.

Catarrh arises because there are many microbes and other particles that cause respiratory diseases.

The consequences are:

  • increased mucus production,
  • Cough.

The cough is a defense mechanism, the lungs are freed in this way from:

  • irritating substances,
  • Bacteria
  • Foreign.

If you get a cold or cough once in 5 months, then this is completely normal. But a chronic cough can have various causes.
In reality, there are many reasons for an acute or chronic productive cough.


Causes of productive cough

Short-term cough – no longer than 3 weeks

Causes include:

Viral infection A common cold is caused by a viral infection
and is one of the most common causes of productive cough. The mucus that flows down the posterior pharyngeal wall causes coughing.
Cough and cold occur together in a viral respiratory infection.

Bacterial infection There are many bacteria that can cause an infection
of the respiratory system, as well as infections of the lungs.
To get rid of these microbes, the body secretes mucus, which traps these organisms.
The result is cough and catarrh. If cough arises due to a bacterial infection, this may indicate a respiratory disease.

A viral
infection or a continuous outflow of mucus in the back of the throat can lead to productive coughing.

  • Nasal congestion
  • Foreign bodies in the lungs
  • Laryngitis

Persistent cough – longer than 3 weeks

Causes of productive cough in the morning or throughout the day

  • Bronchitis (acute and chronic)
  • Emphysema (in rare cases occurs at night and wakes up the patient, usually absent in the REM phase)
  • Bronchiectasis (malformation of the bronchi)

Causes of productive cough at night

At night, coughing occurs more often, because when lying down:

  • the airways are compressed,
  • the mucus is accumulated by gravity.

In addition, the dry air in a closed, heated room can also irritate the throat.

Causes include:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
COPD is a condition that can cause productive coughs day and night.
This shows that the infection has become serious and needs medical treatment as soon as possible.

Chronic smokers or tobacco users show signs of a productive cough. This happens because of a:

  • lung damage,
  • Irritation of the esophagus.

The lungs and esophagus produce mucus to reduce irritation and expel foreign bodies caused by smoking.

Other Causes of Productive Cough

  • pneumonia (the cough occurs day and night)
  • Heart failure (mainly nocturnal cough)
  • Acute and chronic sinusitis (the cough occurs day and night)
  • Tuberculosis (constant cough, day and night)
  • Pneumoconiosis (inhalation of irritant or toxic substances)
  • Cystic fibrosis (with cough day and night, especially in advanced stages)
  • Lung abscess (cough during the day and at night)
  • Lung cancer or metastases
  • Allergic rhinitis or hay fever
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (the cough occurs mainly at night and after meals)
  • Whooping cough (especially nocturnal cough)
  • Asthma (coughing even in the morning, right after waking up)

Concomitant symptoms of productive cough

The productive cough is a symptom of a disease.
However, some other symptoms that occur at the same time may be signs of serious illness.
Therefore, attention must be paid to the following symptoms:

  1. Tachycardia (for example, in emphysema)
  2. High fever – there are numerous causes for this, the most likely being an infection
  3. Bloody tinged cough (for example, in the case of tuberculosis, lung abscess or pneumonia)
  4. Chest pain (possibly caused by pneumonia)
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Lack of energy
  7. Weight loss (for example, with flu, tuberculosis or tumor)
  8. shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (for example, in the case of pneumonia, emphysema or heart failure)
  9. Cough with clear or greenish sputum – mainly caused by a respiratory allergy or bacterial infection, such as sinusitis or bronchitis
  10. Night sweating – possible in tuberculosis or bronchopneumonia
  11. Swollen legs – causes include heart failure

Productive cough after eating is often caused by gastroesophageal reflux.
If it occurs only in the morning, the cause may be a nasal septal deviation.

Differences Between Productive and Dry Cough

Productive coughDry cough
Also known as wet cough.Unproductive cough or irritable cough.
Mucus or catarrh is formed.There is no secretion.
There is no irritation of the throat.Severe irritation and itching in the throat.
The main causes include: 

1) Allergens or pathogenic substances that penetrate the respiratory system
2) Infections
3) Gastroesophageal reflux

The main causes include: 

1) asthma, 2) gastroesophageal reflux,

3) medications such as ACE inhibitors
4) dust and pollen

Cough removers (expectorants) loosen the mucus and promote expectoration.Anti-cough remedies suppress dry cough and are used to treat irritable cough.

Productive cough in children and infants

Causes of productive cough in children
There are several reasons why children suffer from coughing during the night or during the day.
Most often, the main cause is a bacterial or viral infection. But other factors can also trigger cough episodes.
Productive cough can be the result of an allergy.
Possible triggers for cough and associated symptoms:

  • Environmental stimuli
  • Harmful pathogens
  • Environmental pollution
  • Cigarette

If the child suffers from asthma, he may suffer from asthmatic cough, which can occur both during the day and at night.
There are two types of asthma:

  • allergic asthma
  • non-allergic asthma

Asthma provokes productive cough. Other symptoms of this respiratory disease include:

  • chest tightness,
  • Shortness of breath.

This disease is activated by:

  • prolonged stay in cold air,
  • Exercise and play.

The common cold is caused by a viral infection. The symptoms are:

  • runny or stuffy nose,
  • mild fever.

Other conditions that cause productive coughing in children and adults include respiratory infections such as:

  • Influenza
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia.

Timely medical intervention will prevent aggravation of this condition.

Therapy for productive cough

The doctor may prescribe medication; In addition, physical therapy can help with chronic conditions, such as:

  • Bronchial asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pulmonary emphysema

Cough-relieving drugs
Cough suppressants are substances that promote the expectoration of mucus from the lungs. These include:

  • Ammonium chloride
  • Theophylline.

Combined preparations
Combined cough solvers and decongestants are available in the pharmacy.
Some people need to be careful with combination preparations for the following reasons:

Pseudoephedrine (a decongestant) can cause:

  • Palpitation
  • Fear
  • Uneasiness
  • Insomnia
  • Xerostomia

It must not be taken by people with:

  • high blood pressure,
  • heart problems,
  • hyperthyroidism,
  • Diabetes
  • Urinary retention.

Local corticosteroids The doctor may prescribe beclometasone (Cyclocaps
® and Sanasthmax ®) for aerosol in case of cough caused by:

  • Asthma
  • allergic rhinitis,
  • Infections of the throat and paranasal sinuses.

Cortisones are contraindicated in pregnancy.

Mucolytics help to loosen the stuck catarrh, so that the mucus can be coughed up more easily; These include:

  • bromhexine (bisolvon),
  • Ambroxol (AmbroHexal),
  • Acetyl cysteine (fluimucil).

Only in the case of a bacterial infection can an antibiotic be helpful. Since productive cough can also have other causes, it must be consulted with the doctor before taking.

Natural remedies for productive cough

Cough can be treated at home with some really effective means, in addition, it is necessary to stop smoking.

Steam additives
Inhalation of steam is an effective means of clearing the respiratory tract and nose.
Advantageous is the addition of a few drops of tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil.

Steam inhalation
Steam is a good way to fight mucus and facilitate expectoration.
The pharmacist can recommend over-the-counter products for steam inhalation.
Children can carry out aerosol treatments with physiological saline, which do not have side effects.

Make sure that children drink enough water and other fluids so that the mucus in the throat and bronchi dissolves more easily.
A hot broth or apple juice can be given to the child for this purpose.

Ginger tea Ginger tea
is an ancient and effective remedy for curing productive coughs in children and adults.
Ginger tea can be prepared in two ways:

  1. Buy ready-made tea bags in the supermarket.
    • Bring water to a boil.
    • Put the tea bag in a cup, pour over the hot water and leave to infuse for 5 minutes.
  2. Buy 100-200 g of fresh ginger root at the greengrocer.
    • Bring water to a boil.
    • Put the hot water in a cup and wait 5 minutes.
    • Add the ginger and let it steep for 10 minutes.

Due to the sharp taste, children may not drink ginger tea, in this case the addition of honey is recommended.

Honey is a natural cough remover.
It has antibacterial properties and helps to eliminate the microbes responsible for coughing.
It is recommended to consume a teaspoon of honey twice a day to relieve coughing attacks.

Children should be taught to gargle with a lukewarm physiological saline solution. This serves to eliminate a bacterial or viral infection in the throat and respiratory tract.
If the child does not feel relief after using these home remedies and the cough persists, the pediatrician should be consulted.

Snail syrup The pharmacy offers snail syrup
with snail mucus extract.
The enzymes contained therein:

  • liquefy catarrh,
  • favor mucus removal.

The recommended daily dose is 2 to 4 spoons.

Self-prepared cough syrup
A natural cough solution is a juice with:

  • Honey
  • Lemon.

Prepare a mixture from:

  • lemon juice (squeeze 6-7 lemons),
  • 3 tbsp honey.


  • Mix the ingredients together.
  • Heat for 20-30 minutes (without boiling) until the mixture thickens.
  • Place in a sterile glass jar and seal.
  • Store in the refrigerator.

Honey lines the throat and has a calming effect on irritated tissues, while lemon reduces inflammation and fights the infection because it contains vitamin C.

Other home remedies

Honey and onions Onions
contain irritant compounds that trigger a cough reflex and dissolve catarrh.
Peel and chop 6 medium-sized onions.

  • Add half a cup of honey and heat in a water bath.
  • Cover and cook over mild heat for 2 hours.
  • Strain and place in a sealable jar.
  • Take one tablespoon every 2-3 hours.

Honey and cloves
You can prepare a syrup, make a mixture of:

  • 5 or 6 cloves
  • 1 cup honey

Then place this mixture in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, remove the cloves and take 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon of honey as needed.
The cloves relieve a sore throat, while the honey helps against the inflammation in the throat.

Remedies for nocturnal cough

Herbal tea with honey
You should get into the habit of drinking chamomile tea before going to bed.
Any hot drink can help liquefy the mucus in the airways.
A very good remedy is chamomile tea with a little honey.

Elevated sleeping position
When coughing at night, gravity must be exploited.
All the mucus that was swallowed during the day rises again at night and irritates the throat.
There are several possibilities:

  • When sleeping, put some pillows under your head.
  • Place some pillows at head height under the mattress; this method is recommended for people who suffer from neck pain.
  • Increase the legs of the bed by a pad.
  • Use a massage table to keep the shoulders in an elevated position.

By inhaling moistened air, various types of coughs can be treated, including the productive cough. The moisture created by the humidifier liquefies the mucus and produces a more productive cough.
If you do not have a humidifier, you can hang a wet towel in the room or generate steam by means of the shower.

How long does a productive cough last? Prognosis

The duration depends on the pathology that provoked this symptom. If it is a viral infection, it can take a few days. However, in some cases, the patient may have a chronic condition such as asthma or an allergy, then the cough can persist for months or years.

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