Few of us have not experienced that tingling sensation in our throats. What exactly causes the cough and could chocolate be used as a suppressant?
What makes us cough?
A cough is a reflex action triggered by the stimulation of sensory nerves in our respiratory passages to clear the airways of irritants. The irritant can be dust or smoke, or food 'going down the wrong way' in which case the cough will disappear after the irritant is no longer. Usually it is caused by a medical condition, in which case there is no 'quick fix' solution.
The most common type of cough is the one caused by a viral infection of the respiratory tract. Such infections are usually contracted during the winter and are spread from person to person by breathing in the bacteria or virus. The cough usually develops over a day and may be accompanied by a fever, headache, aches, pains and a stuffy or runny nose. The symptoms usually peak after a few days and gradually clear away. The cough however, may persist for up to four weeks after the infection has gone. This is because the inflammation in the airways, caused by the infection or the virus, can take a while to clear.
What is the treatment?
A cough caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics but unfortunately there is no remedy for a cough caused by a viral infection, although over-the-counter medication can help ease the symptoms. A deep chesty cough, in which phlegm is coughed up, is usually treated with an expectorant cough mixture to help loosen the phlegm and make it easier to cough up from the airways. A dry, tickly cough, in which no phlegm is coughed up can be treated with a cough suppressant to reduce the cough reflex. Where the cough is caused by mucus running down the back of the throat, antihistamines may be prescribed. Antihistamines reduce the cough reflex and dry up nasal secretions. Nasal decongestants may also be used to reduce nasal secretions which contribute to a cough.
Chocolate as a cough suppressant?
Recent studies are welcome news to chocolate lovers. They reveal that theobromine, an ingredient of dark chocolate, may be a very effective and safe cough suppressant. Research published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology appears to show that theobromine is nearly a third more effective in stopping persistent coughs than codeine, which is currently considered the most effective cough medicine. The research team from Imperial College London, Royal Brompton Hospital, St Bartholomew's Hospital and Chinoin Co. Ltd, Budapest, also discovered that, unlike accepted cough medicine, theobromine causes no adverse effects on the cardiovascular orcentral nervous system.
Does this mean that when we next have a cough we should go on a strict diet of chocolate bars? Unfortunately not. Experts say that although it is possible to get enough theobromine in a bar of dark chocolate to alleviate a cough, studies have yet to be done to reveal the exact dose required. A theobromine based medication will be released within two years.
Home grown remedies
Although one should always go to the doctor when not feeling well, there are time honoured remedies which work for some and refuse to work for others but which we should definitely try when suffering from that very irritating cough.
- Cider vinegar contains the mineral potassium which promotes healthy cells and tissues. Combine one part cider vinegar and two parts honey. Take a teaspoon of the mixture to soothe an irritating cough.
- Blend into a cup of boiling water, two teaspoonful’s of honey and two slices of lemon. Sip the drink to soothe your throat.
- Steam opens up our pores and helps circulation. A steam facial helps relieve congestion from our lungs and head. Fill a bowl with boiling water, cover your head with a towel and let the steam rise up to your face. The cough should subside within a few minutes.
- The reputation of garlic for healing is almost as old as civilization itself. The ancient Egyptians used garlic juice, ‘allicilin’ as a germicide and Hippocrates used garlic as a healer for infections. Garlic is now known to have anti-bacterial properties that help the immune system fight infection and it is an excellent boost to the immune system. Just add raw garlic to your food. Especially when you feel that a cold is developing.
Sneezing, sniffling and coughing is unfortunately as part of life for many of us, as winter itself.