What Is a Wet Cough?
A wet cough is a term used to describe coughs containing mucus or phlegm and is the result of mucus in the upper or lower respiratory tract. This is usually itself a symptom of respiratory infection, allergy or heart infection. In some cases it may just be a result of asthma, hay fever or the flu. Technically this is known as a ‘productive cough’ – though it will likely not make you feel particularly ‘productive’.
Specifically the common causes of wet cough are COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), bronchiectasis (which is a destruction and widening of the large airways), tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis or cancer of the lungs. In the case of cancer of the lung the cough will usually include bloody sputum.
How Is a Wet Cough Treated?
A wet cough is a symptom as opposed to a problem in itself. Thus the wet cough itself is not what will be treated, but rather the underlying cause producing the wet cough – and these will be treated in a number of different ways.
If your wet cough is acute rather than chronic and does not have any other major symptoms – i.e. if it is caused by something such as a cold or flu – then it will simply pass with time. You can aid recovery by keeping the house warm, by encouraging good moisture levels and by drinking lots of water. Taking a hot bath may help to dispel some of the mucus, as can inhaling steam. Avoid using antihistamines which can dry the mucus, or cough sweets which are more suited to dry coughs.
However if you have other symptoms it may point to a chronic or dangerous condition. The following should be considered warning signs:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Coughing up clear or lime green mucus
- Coughing pink frothy mucus
- Rapid breathing
- Night sweats
- Rapid heart rate
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Bluish coloration of the fingernails
- High fever
If you suffer any of these symptoms you should get immediate treatment. Doctors will then treat the cause of the problem whether that means chemotherapy for lung cancer, antibiotics for infections such as pneumonia, assisted breathing, pulmonary rehabilitation or steroids. Once the exact cause of your wet cough has been identified, then the treatment can be decided upon.