Chronic cough - Sarawak Tribune - Friday, 28 June 2002

My mother, 40, is suffering from severe cough since 3 years ago and her condition worsens especially after taking certain food such as milk and other dairy products. According to our family doctor, she is suffering from a condition named Bronchitis. Is Bronchitis a serious `disease'? What are the natural remedies to treat her condition? Please advise.

ANSWER: Dear Reader Bronchitis refers to the inflammation of the bronchi, which are the breathing passageways that lead down to the lungs. When the bronchi become inflamed, breathing is more difficult and the membranes lining the airways produce large amounts of thick mucus, which trigger coughing spells. Generally, there are two types of bronchitis - acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis usually comes on after a cold or flu. It's usually caused by a virus and will probably be gone in a week or two. However, condition may also worsen that leads to pneumonia in certain case. Chronic bronchitis is a sign of reversible damage to the lungs, usually from long-term exposure to irritants, like cigarette smoke. I would suggest your mom to get plenty of bed rest whenever she has the coughing attacks. Steam inhalation from a vaporizer is usually helpful to loosen the phlegm in the bronchi and can help to lessen the cough. If you don't have a vaporizer, make use of a basin of hot water for the same effect. You can also add a few drops of essential oils such as

Basil, Elecampene, Eucalyptus, Hyssop, Camphor and Menthol in the basin, cover the head with a large towel and bend over the basin. Inhale the rising steam for 5 to 15 minutes, repeat 3 to 4 times daily. Eucalyptus and Hyssop oil is particularly good for relieving congestion and clearing the airways. It is very important to encourage your mom to take plenty of fluid such as vegetable juices, soups and herbal teas to prevent dehydration. Hot drinks may help her to cough up and spit out phlegm. It would be a good idea for her to avoid milk and dairy products that you have mentioned which can aggravate her condition. Excessive sugar and white flour products, such as cakes, bread and biscuits can also cause the problems as these foods have the acid-forming nature which lead to phlegm complaints. Substitute these foods with brown rice, millet and non-wheat based products instead. Adhatoda, Albizzia and Pleurisy root, are herbs that have long been indicated for bronchitis and other infectious bronchial conditions. They act to loosen mucus build-up and promote the expectoration of phlegm. However, Adhatoda and Albizzia are not cough suppressants, but instead promote expulsion of excessive phlegm which may trigger the cough reflex. Therefore, in many cases the patient may seem to be coughing even more after consumption of Adhatoda and Albizzia! Do not panic, as this is only temporary. After a week or two, when the phlegm is cleared, the coughing will soon cease.