We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.
StatPearls reports that cough is one of the most common medical conditions in the world.
In fact, coughing is responsible for about thirty million clinical visits per year in the United States. And while the occasional cough is normal, as it expels irritants from the lungs, a persistent cough that lingers for more than eight weeks is a health concern that needs to be taken seriously. This type of cough is considered to be “chronic” by health professionals, and it often occurs as a result of an underlying medical condition.
Cough is particularly problematic for the senior population. Older members of our society are often at higher risk for serious illness, and even a seemingly minor health issue can have devastating consequences for them.
Let’s dive into the causes and symptoms of cough in seniors. Then, we’ll take a look at some of the treatments that can help with this all-too-common condition.
Coughs can result in many different symptoms, such as a stuffy nose, shortness of breath, wheezing, sore throat, hoarse voice, and heartburn. In many cases, you may even feel mucus dripping down the back of your throat. In rare and severe cases, coughs may even produce blood.
Chronic coughs can impact the overall quality of life. Chronic coughs disrupt sleep, which can cause physical exhaustion, headaches, and abdominal pain. In addition, as an older person, you are already more vulnerable to insomnia because your body produces less melatonin, and these effects can be amplified if they aren’t monitored closely.
Here is an overview of some of the major causes of coughs in seniors:
Although rare, a chronic cough can also arise from more serious medical conditions like cystic fibrosis. Patients who have a diagnosed medical condition, or believe they may be developing one and that their cough resulted from said disease, may be advised by their doctor to get an X-ray or CT scan to obtain a more accurate diagnosis.
The specific treatment for a chronic cough will depend on its cause. For instance, if you have acid reflux, you might be prescribed medication to neutralize the acid production. But if the cause of the cough is fungal or bacterial, you will need to take antibiotics for it instead.
Otherwise, your doctor might prescribe specific cough medications, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, and antibiotics to clear the respiratory tract.
While medication may be necessary for many coughs, some natural cures bear consideration.
For instance, mild coughs caused by irritation and mucus build-up often respond well to simple warm water or a tea drink.
This also may help with any cough-related chest discomfort the patient may be experiencing.
On the other hand, dry coughs will generally respond well to increased moisture in the air. This can be easily accomplished through the use of a humidifier, by regularly spending time leaning over a bowl of hot water with a towel covering your head and the bowl, or spending time in a warm, steamy shower.
Thus far, we’ve discussed treatments for coughs and related infections at length. However, we haven’t discussed much in terms of prevention.
Preventing disease often comes down to a few basic things:
Because the focus of this article is on cough in seniors, it would behoove us to discuss the issue of eldercare. Unfortunately, eldercare isn’t cheap and as an older person, you may feel you cannot afford good healthcare. However, there are ways to navigate this concern.
In the U.S., patients can apply for federal health insurance. They’ll need to look for a local Medicare provider that can offer a plan suitable for their particular treatment needs. The following section may also apply to your situation if you are living in the U.S.
In Colorado, Catalyst offers basic Medicare coverage for local seniors, including sometimes funding your trips to the clinic. Similarly, Kelsey Care offers several Medicare plans in Texas, including “Rx Select,” which offers Part D. Part D helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. So, if a doctor advises you to take a prescription cough medicine, this can help reduce the costs. Generally, if you are looking for a Medicare health provider, a good place to start is the government’s Medicare website.
Patients can also investigate local healthcare organizations that offer programs for anyone over the age of sixty-five. For example, the Area Agency on Aging in Oregon provides long-term medical care to seniors, including “disease prevention” coverage, which could help pay for visits to the clinic and medication.
Patients can also check out more organizations offering Medicare coverage here.
Cough is one of the most common medical conditions in the world. Despite that, not every chronic cough needs treatment with medication. If a particular cough is due to mucus build-up in the throat, drinking warm water may resolve the issue. For dry coughs, increasing the moisture content in the air through the use of a cool-mist humidifier might be just what the doctor ordered.
Although it is not always possible to treat a chronic cough completely, there are many methods by which you can prevent the symptoms and manage the condition. You should always start by asking your doctor about what could be causing the cough and the appropriate treatment options.