Gayle M. Belin, M.A., CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathology Services

Professional Biography

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Vocal Hygiene Tips

Cough Relief

Glossary of Terms

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Cough Relief

1. Stay hydrated!!
  • Drinking plenty of water or other healthy liquids will assist in lubricating the vocal fold tissues systemically (from within) and decreasing the irritation that contributes to the tickle in your throat.
  • Consuming liquids can help to thin the mucous that often accompanies colds and flu, as well as post nasal drip.
  • Rather than drink an entire glass at once, sip liquids throughout the day.
  • Any temperature (hot or cold or room temperature) of liquid is fine. They all work! However, drinking warm liquids may feel soothing.
  • Try swallowing with a hard swallow.

2. Saliva management and throat clearing: Clearing your throat can contribute to irritation of the vocal fold tissues that could lead to throat tickles and coughing. Swallowing hard can help. Or try vocalizing in a gentle hum to move the vocal folds, which will shake them of some of the excess mucous.

3. Techniques for reducing your cough:
  • When you feel a need to cough or clear your throat, inhale slowly and exhale slowly through pursed lips, as though you were directly the air through a straw or Cherrio.
  • You can also exhale on a prolonged "sssssss" or "sh..."
  • Focus your inhalations lower in your abdomen (deep in the "belly"), taking care not to raise your shoulders. Remember: Breath in and out slowly!

4. Lozenges: Using a lozenge to encourage salivation will assist in cough reduction. Avoid lozenges that have menthol or eucalyptus as they can be drying to the tissues and actually encourage more coughing.

5. Use steam or a humidifier:
  • Breathing in moist air can help break up thick secretions that contribute to irritation and coughing. Try taking a hot shower, breathing in the steam.
  • Filling the sink with hot water, creating a tent over your head with a towel and breathing in the warm, moist air can also be helpful.
  • If you use a humidifier, be sure to clean it each time to avoid the growth of mold, fungus and other bacteria.

6. Pay attention to possible irritants in your environment (both indoors and outside) that can irritate mucosal tissues. These would include air fresheners, perfumes or colognes, scented hand creams and hair products, smoking and second hand smoke, pollens, the scent of freshly cut grass, and even strong body odor.

7. Medications to relieve congestion:
  • While some medications act as decongestants to reduce mucus production and the swelling of nasal mucosa, they can also be drying to the tissues which would contribute to irritation and more coughing. These medications can also have negative interactions with other medications and if used for more than a few days, can lead to some dependency on them to keep nasal passages open. Bottom line — consult with your primary care provider to assist in choosing the right medication to relieve congestion.
  • Cough suppressants or expectorants can be useful, but like the warning above, consult with a medical professional to choose the right one for your symptoms.