Air pollution is a significant risk factor for many health conditions, including various respiratory diseases, lung diseases, heart stroke and heart disorders, and COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Air pollution also impacts your hair and skin but the effects on your respiratory system are far more chronic.

Air pollution is defined as the presence of harmful substances in the atmosphere or in the gases present in the air. It is mainly caused by pollutants in car emissions, dust particles, the release of chemicals from manufacturing and urbanization processes, and from mould spores that may be suspended in the air. Ozone (a gas) is a major cause of air pollution in cities. When the air gets polluted due to ozone, it is called smog.

Air Pollution and Cough

Air pollution is a part of your life. If you stay in one of the bigger cities in India, it is most likely that you are breathing in dangerously polluted and poor quality air. One of the major side effects of long-term exposure to air pollution is cough.

Cough is a sudden, forceful reflux that clears your throat of mucus (a normal, slippery, and stringy fluid in the nose) or foreign substances. 

While coughing is not a serious health problem, any cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks (known as chronic cough), can lead to serious respiratory diseases. To avoid your cough from aggravating further, treating and preventing it with simple remedies is advisable. 

7 Tips to Prevent & Treat Cough Due to Air Pollution

1. Use a humidifier. It adds moisture into the air which prevents drying of the mucus lining in your throat, eases irritation, and thus relieves cough. 

2. Drink ginger and honey tea. Ginger and honey tea is an age-old home remedy to soothe your irritated throat, which occurs due to excessive coughing. You can brew up a soothing tea by adding about 20-40 grams of sliced ginger into a cup of hot water. Allow it to steep for about 5 minutes and then add honey accordingly. 

The antinflammatory compounds in ginger can relax membranes in the airways, which reduces coughing. Honey has antibacterial properties that help in moistening your throat and preventing cough.

3. Wear a mask while stepping out. Wearing a face mask can reduce the effects of short-term exposure to air pollution. Face masks filter particles in the air and act as a protective barrier against dangerous air pollutants.

Masks with an N95 rating are known to filter about 95% of the particulate matter in the air. Surgical or medical masks and cloth masks are not as effective as N95 masks but they offer some protection against air pollution.

Remember to keep your mask clean and hygienic. If you wish to reuse an N95 mask, make sure you keep it dry and disinfect it every time. Dispose off surgical masks immediately after 4 to 5 hours of use. Cloth masks are reusable. They must be washed in hot water and dried properly in the sun before using them again. 

4. Reduce indoor air pollution with potted plants. Indoor air pollution is poor air quality, within and around your home and residential buildings. Indoor air pollution can also cause coughing, headaches, watery eyes, dry throat, dizziness, and nausea.

Combating indoor air pollution with plants is one of the best remedies. Besides adding freshness and charm to indoor spaces, potted plants offer some health benefits too. They purify indoor air by absorbing harmful toxins and airborne particles. Bamboo Palm is a highly recommended indoor plant that filters out toxins from the air. Other plants include snake plant and spider plant. 

5. Drink enough water. Staying hydrated thins out the mucus and keeps your nose and throat moist. This will decrease the irritation in your throat and help in reducing cough.

You can choose to drink herbal teas or vegetable broths too. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol in case you have repeated episodes of coughing.

6. Take proper rest. Taking enough rest is essential for your overall health. If you have excessive coughing, remember to elevate your head with 2-3 pillows at night, to keep your head above your heart. Lying flat on your back can increase mucus buildup and trigger a cough, especially during the night. An elevated position will reduce mucus buildup and relieve some discomfort.

7. Seek help from an expert. If your cough is not getting better and is increasing by the day, then it is advisable to consult your doctor. Monitoring a persistent cough is necessary as it may be a sign of a more serious condition such as asthma, bronchitis, acid reflux, or pneumonia, etc.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.