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31 May 2006

Cough, cough. Pay attention please.

Having been bothered by a cough for the last few days and been singularly unimpressed with the variety of medicines on offer, I decided to try a different approach.

I have always wondered why when you have a chesty cough that you drink something that goes in your stomach. The logic seems perverse, like pouring something into your ear for a sore eye. Sure, your body might absorb the liquid and the ingredients might end up in the right place, but this also seems like a waste of time, like taking a pain tablet for a stiff ankle rather than just rubbing something onto the ankle itself. Why not have a directed cure rather than something that affects the whole body?

As someone who did singing fairly seriously for about 6 years (solo, small groups, choirs, Mod Gold Medal competition) as well as taking a keen interest in training singers (article on Gaelic singing technique), I've been aware of vocal sprays for a while.

So I looked for a cough spray, since something inhaled is likely to hit the spot quicker and go into the lungs, somewhere that would be difficult for cough syrup to end up. A search for "cough spray" in returns no pages at all.

The US seems to have got its act together on this one, with several products on the market. Given the advantages of:

1. You don't need to bring a spoon, or wash it afterwards
2. You get an exact metered dose
3. There's no chance of spilling it and making a great sticky mess.
4. The bottle is more compact
5. The container is a lot lighter than a bottle

One wonders why such a product has not caught on in the UK.

Meantime I'll borrow an inhaler, seems to do the job better than the cough mixture.

Sprays: the coffin of coughing (groan).


Anonymous said...

Intersesting. So following your thesis, the only part of your body for which swallowing a medicine is efficient, would be the stomach itself.

Craig Cockburn said...

It's effective to swallow something if your stomach needs it, or your whole body needs it. If the problem is in a specific place and it's possible to apply the medicine directly to that place, then this seems like a more sensible route. Particularly with coughs where its the surface exposed to the air which is the problem.

gerry said...

I agree with Craig, because the cough reflex is in the throat not in the stomach.

What I know about cough is that there are two kinds, the ones that are due to infections in the respiratory tract and you want or are stimulated to cough up the infection mucus or phlegm, and the ones that are dry non-productive, namely, of mucus or phlegm.

Cough from infections of course requires that you first take care of the infections; cough not from infections can be from all kinds of stimulations from the body itself or from outside the body.

Allergies and even psychological stress and tension can I believe from a layman's non-doctor mind, can trigger the cough reflex in the throat.

Whether however cough is from infection or from non-infection causes, like as I said, allergies of all kinds and sources and also irritations from all origins, the fact is that if the cough reflex can be neutralized, then the cough will not take place.

How do we neutralize the cough reflex that is actually present when we feel like coughing and even have to cough, as when we have to scratch to ease an itch?

What about using anesthesia? This is any substance like in fluid or gas state, getting the substance, fluid or gas in contact with the spot in the inside throat where the cough reflex can be located to be active and actually impacting us to cough to relieve the sensation.

Now, I happen to know that there are anesthetic sprays used by dentists and even doctors doing minor topical surgeries, i.e., any knife procedure penetrating and cutting of skin and flesh not more than shall we say skin deep.

Get an anesthetic spray from a dentists' supplies shop, and carefully spray into your inside throat in the spot where you know you have to cough to fight the sensation that is pushing you to cough to throw up the irritant even though there is actually none but the sensation of an irritant there.

What is the neurological justification for this procedure? Simple: cough reflex comes from nerves, and nerves are like dogs which can be trained to not get overly active, by being subjected to anesthesia, which is a de-sensitizing agent -- a classical case of conditioning.

Don't try it unless you have someone around to help you in case you can't swallow, or worse feel like suffocating, and fear you might die: that someone around will get you to the emergency room of the nearest hospital better than all by yourself.

That's for being extra careful.

However, if you get a mild anesthetic spray that will not be so drastic as to make it impossible for you to manage the swallowing operation of your throat, or even hinders your breathing, then it might just work to stop the coughing which no tablets or concoctions of syrup can help -- if you know from experience and remember.

So, I will proceed next time I am in that part of town where dentists' supplies stores are found in every corner -- because there is that famous college with a big enrollment in its dentistry course, and buy me a good anesthetic spray used by dentists.

I will experiment most carefully on myself, on my throat; so that next time I have one of those long-lasting cough which keeps me sleepless at night or my family members have such a cough, I can be their home self-taught cough expert.

What do you guys think about that?


Unknown said...

Gaelic singing can be so beautiful.

I got the chance to work with Maire Brennan a few years back. What an emotive voice!

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