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March 13, 2009 9:16 PM   Subscribe

My cough is insane. I've never heard its equal... what do I do?

Whenever I get sick, I get a cough that is absolutely insane. It sounds like a doberman, it's loud, and deep and guttural. It also always gets much, much worse at night. Normally, I just deal with it - I go sleep on the couch for a week, it goes away, my girlfriend's happy again, no harm no foul.

I'm right in the thick of it right now, and we're going to Vienna tomorrow for a week, so I have no time to see a doctor. we will be staying on a friend's couch and I am terribly afraid that I am going to not only drive her insane but drive my hosts insane as well.

Why is my cough always so out of control? What's the best suppressant to bring with me to Vienna?
posted by orville sash to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD at all. Codeine works to control coughs. Do you have any kind of suppressant? Coughs are often nocturnal creatures for some reason.

Airplane air is sooo dry -- bring some suppressants and tons of lozenges. You might be able to get something awesome over the counter in Vienna.
posted by barnone at 9:25 PM on March 13, 2009

For a bad cough, dextromethorphan (DXM) is really the only OTC thing that's going to be effective. You can of course supplement this with menthol drops like Ricola for the topical anesthetic effect. DXM + Ricola would be a one-two punch on the cough.

I'd also try to plan ahead for seeing a doctor in Vienna on Monday for some real relief.
posted by crapmatic at 10:15 PM on March 13, 2009

Also if you plan to take the DXM on the plane, you'd better get cough drops, due to the checkpoint restrictions on liquid. I only recall seeing DXM cough drops in CVS and Walgreens, not at Wal-Mart or supermarkets.
posted by crapmatic at 10:16 PM on March 13, 2009

Please be careful. International traveling exposes people to a bevy of germs their bodies aren't accustomed to; with your body already weakened fighting your current illness, one of them might get a foothold. Im not saying youre gonna get ebola, im saying that theres a range of colds and viruses always evolving and changing and on the other side of the planet you will be exposed to ones your body hasn't seen. If you get infected with them, your body might be weakened even further, putting you at risk of bronchitis or pneumonia.
posted by CTORourke at 11:28 PM on March 13, 2009

Do you have asthma? I do, and get an atrocious cough whenever I get sick; sounds like at least one of my lungs wants to jump out. (I do have other symptoms now, but actually this awful cough was the first of them; I didn't have any issues until I was 20.)

I find making sure the asthma is well-treated when I'm sick makes a huge difference in the volume and reverberation of the cough. I also find lying down on my back makes it worse, but lying on my stomach is ok. Being well hydrated always helps.

Even if you don't have asthma, you might be able to reduce the effects of the cough at night by sleeping in a different position, and staying hydrated. You might consider investing in a little paper mask too so you don't share your germs with the whole airplane (and with your hosts as well). Something to help you sleep might be a good idea too because sleep will help you heal, and you will be jetlagged.
posted by nat at 12:20 AM on March 14, 2009

I'm going to assume that you don't smoke. But if you do, there's a start. By which I mean, stop doing that.

Horizontalness increases the pressure on your lungs. I get absolutely awful, house-rattling coughs about once a year, and sitting up or just putting a few pillows behind my back tends to help a bit. Not all that comfortable, I admit, but neither is hacking up blood or choking so hard that you vomit.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:08 AM on March 14, 2009

If you're not a smoker, did you grow up in a household of smokers? My sister and I lived with our chain-smoking parents until our early twenties. Neither one of us officially developed asthma, but we also both started getting horrible, lingering coughs during and after colds when we were in our late twenties and we're both very sensitive to smoke and dust.

But this can get worse. Many years later, my sister has had to recently move out of her house after a bout of flu because working long hours, the usual cough after-effect and exposure to drywall dust combined to leave her with the lung capacity of a chipmunk. She's better now, but she was really surprised that she had to end up in emergency a couple of times over this.

You can take the medications recommended above, but you should also try to rest and avoid any additional environmental triggers and stresses while you are still coughing like this. If you're travelling, stay hydrated (drink water, get a humidifier in your room, if possible).
posted by maudlin at 2:46 AM on March 14, 2009

I can't give you advice about why you get a cough, but I can tell you about the one thing I took that stopped a bad cough in its tracks -- Buckley's Mixture. It tastes like absolute ass -- imagine if you melted down a Vick's mentholated cough drop, used it to brew a tea of pine needles and then added some ground mothball -- but DAMN does it work.

If you get some, check which formula you're getting -- the expectorant or the suppressant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:52 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all your advice, everyone. Answers to questions earlier in the thread:

1.) I am not asthmatic
2.) I do not smoke
3.) I have smoked in my life, but not at all regularly for maybe 7 or 8 years.
4.) This cough only manifests itself when I have a cold. i am not even capable of coughing like this when I don't already have a cold.

Empress, I'll check out Buckley's. It seems like other people have suggested it. I'm also going to try and find some sleeping agent. I'm not so worried about coughing during the day, people can live with that. I'm more worried about coughing at night when it will keep everyone up.

So... can anyone recommend some good otc sleeping pills?
posted by orville sash at 6:20 AM on March 14, 2009

Yeah, go to a doctor. They can give you codeine which will help with the cough, and should knock you out pretty good. I had a horrible cough last winter and popped Ricola like crazy. I liked the elderberry ones, but couldn't find them everywhere. The usual otc sleeping pills are diphenhydramine hcl, which is basically Benadryl painted blue instead of pink. It works really good for me.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:34 AM on March 14, 2009

Mucinex DM (it's the green box) helps a lot with coughs and with post nasal drip. It also has the side benefits of being OTC and working for 12hrs. It's not particularly cheap, but it's worth it. It definitely will help make things easier to get some sleep. I also tend to take some Benedryl to help that happen when I'm feeling like shit. Well, that, and they changed the magic formula they used to make Nyquil a while more riding the green dragon *sigh*

If you're somehow able to get in contact with your doctor before catching your flight, see if you can get a script for Tussalon Perles. They're prescription liquid gelcap thingies that absolutely rock in keeping your cough in control.

I have asthma that tends to only manifest itself when I'm sick. I know that you said you don't have it, but since you have that barky cough, you might want to see a pulmonologist upon your return to rule out the possibility that your status may have changed.

Feel better and have a good, safe trip!
posted by dancinglamb at 7:03 AM on March 14, 2009

Oh, and the Mucinex is in the form of tablets, so there's nothing nasty to swallow.
posted by dancinglamb at 7:04 AM on March 14, 2009

If you have pneumonia - you will have pain in your lungs - that would warrant a dr.'s visit.

If you have acute bronchitis - there's little a doctor will do - aside from giving you an inhaler or antibiotics - which in my recent experience didn't work. What did work was getting rest.

Sucking on a ginger slice will help with the cough.
Tiger balm on chest will alleviate a few symptoms, warm chest and open sinuses.
Massage chest area to get more blood flowing to that region.

Hot soups
Ginger, lemon and honey in hot water
A shot of brandy.
Cayenne powder in hot water with honey.
Garlic in hot water.
Turmeric, milk, ghee and honey to taste.
Drink as much as you can, whenever you can.

Be well.
posted by watercarrier at 10:24 AM on March 14, 2009

I think it needs to be stated - and then re-stated - get REST!
posted by watercarrier at 10:25 AM on March 14, 2009

Today I went out and grabbed some DXM cough drops, and some melatonin for the plane ride. Beyond that, I think I'm going to stick with the more homeopathic remedies (IE, water carrier's suggestions) while I'm on the trip. If I had more time, I'd go see a doctor, but unfortunately, I just don't time. Thanks everyone for your advice. If I find out why I get such wild coughing fits I'll post that in this thread as well for all future readers.
posted by orville sash at 12:09 PM on March 14, 2009

Ditto Buckley's. It tastes positively disgusting (and they've even used this fact to their benefit in their advertising), but it does work like the proverbial champ.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:07 PM on March 14, 2009

Codeine cough syrup is the only thing I've found that truly works to suppress a vicious cough like the one you described. In lieu of that, I was in Vienna last year with a cough, and I took some Fishermen's Friend style drops that worked pretty well and were available at every news stand and drugstore I saw. Unfortunately the ones that worked the best tasted dreadfully. I don't remember the name but they were in a black and white striped packet, unlike the others which had different colored stripes.

As for sleeping, a hot toddy is fantastic and I've found that it controls coughing somewhat at least. That would be (variations abound of course):

* whiskey, a double (jameson's is good for this)
* a teaspoon of honey
* a wedge of lemon with a few cloves stuck in it
* lemon juice
* top it off with boiling/hot water

Hopefully that will help you get some rest, which is what will truly make you feel better, of course. Enjoy Vienna - it's a gorgeous, lovely city!
posted by jacquilinala at 3:49 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great. After writing my answer above, I contracted the cold going around these parts-- complete of course with wracking cough. I'll try my usual, but I'm also interested in this Buckley's-- unfortunately the US portion of the link EC put up above seems to go to an empty myspace page.

Where would you go to pick up Buckley's? How widely available is it?
posted by nat at 3:56 PM on March 15, 2009

Nat, I've gotten it two different places in New York city -- one a chain, and one a mom-and-pop type of place. I don't know which chain drug store is nearest you -- I do know that i was NOT able to find it in Duane Reade, but it may have been in CVS or Walgreen's, both of which I know are national.

Mom-and-pop type of places may also have it. Not EVERY drug store in the U.S. has it, but it's not weirdly esoteric either.

It works REALLY well. But it does taste absolutely awful. If it didn't stop my cough in its tracks within ten minutes of each dose, I wouldn't be recommending it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 PM on March 15, 2009

Good news for chocolate lovers!

Wikipedia says Recent studies have found that theobromine, a compound found in cacao, is more effective as a cough suppressant than prescription codeine. This compound suppresses the "itch" signal from the nerve in the back of the throat that causes the cough reflex. It is possible to get an effective dose (1 g, though 0.5 g may be sufficient)[3] from 50g of dark chocolate....

I have no personal experience yet, but next time I have a cough, I'm sure going to stock up on dark chocolate!
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:09 PM on March 16, 2009

I actually have to admit, nothing really helped.

Over the course of the trip, I ended up sleeping in the hallway of my friend's house, far enough away that I didn't keep everyone awake by coughing. Too bad.

I think next time, assuming I'm not jetting off to a foreign country the next day, I am going to hit up the doctor's office and get some codeine. Nothing over the counter seemed to work, though I never did get ahold of Buckley's Mixture. I'll give that a shot next time too.
posted by orville sash at 5:30 AM on April 14, 2009

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