At the height of cold and flu season, we can all agree that it’s better to prevent a cough altogether than to treat it once we’ve caught it — here are some preventative tips to avoid the pain and aggravation.
The most important, and effective, step you can take to prevent a cough that’s the result of an illness is to wash your hands and shared surfaces regularly. Wash your hands before eating, after using public spaces (ATMs, grocery stores, metros, etc.), or when you’ve been around someone you know is sick. Don’t share cups, utensils, food, makeup, or towels to avoid spreading germs — even if you don’t think the other person is sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and face, since viruses and bacteria are easily transferred to these moist openings, making it more likely you’ll get sick.
If at all possible, stay away from people you know are sick — of course, you may not be able to if they live or work with you, but avoid spending time in close quarters if possible, and not stand too close.
Managing a sore throat can help prevent a cough from developing: one common reason we cough is as a response to a dry or irritated throat. Keeping hydrated is one of the best things to do, as it prevents the throat and lungs from drying out and coughing as an attempt to get moisture to the area; if your throat is scratchy or sore, try soothing it with warm water or tea (add honey for extra-soothing effects) or gargling with warm salt water.
Second-hand smoke is a big trigger for coughs; if you are regularly exposed to it, it can irritate your lungs and leave you coughing nearly as much as the actual smoker. Encourage them to quit, and do your best to stay away from the smoke. If you are a smoker who hasn’t already developed a chronic cough, know that it’s a likely outcome, and that quitting is best way to prevent it.
Immunizations go a long way toward preventing illnesses that cause a cough: vaccines can prevent whooping cough and the croup in both children and adults, and people over 65 should get their pneumococcal shot. Getting flu shot each year can help protect you against the most common strains of influenza that season.