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by jebwlb on Sat Mar 21, 2009 12:00 AM

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I am in remission from lung cancer and continue to develop a cough especially at night or early morning. Is this a normal reaction from chemo and radiation?

RE: Coughing

by trehouse60 on Sat Mar 21, 2009 12:00 AM

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The lining of your respiratory tract is still possibly irritated from the treatment, and may continue to be for some time. The cough is the body's defense mechanism against mucus collecting and trapping bacterias and viruses and getting infected. The more mucus that is produced by the membranes, the more the body will cough.

There are some prescription drugs that can help with this - your oncologist or radiologist should have some experience with this and could provide a prescription for a mucolytic and/or antitussive. THey may not think about tessalon perls as it's a medication that has been around for a long time and has been eclipsed by newer and supposedly "better" drugs - you might ask them about tessalon. 

Robitussin (guaifenesin) is a great over-the-counter choice.  (Just plain robitussin - NO decongestants or anything else added.)  Any of the generics "tussins" that contain guaifenesin will do the same.  Guaifenesin is a humectant - it will thin secretions so that they can easily be coughed away, thus decreasing the need to repeatedly cough to clear mucus membranes. Be careful with drugs like Mucinex - they are time-released guaifenesin which works well, but for some people the formulation is too much.

There are also natural ways to address the problem:  slippery elm lozenges are an excellent solution.  Many health food stores and herb shops carry them, and they are available online.  Some people don't like to use them because as they dissolve they have a slightly slimy texture - but that is the nature of the herb - it is after all produced from the viscous inner bark of the tree.

Herbal cough drops such as Riccola can help - there are herbs in the formula that are mucolytic (cut through mucus.)

Especially helpful mucolytic foods are apple, lemon and cranberry. Try drinking some room temp apple juice in the evening a couple of hours before bedtime, and then again before going to bed.  Diluted lemon juice or cranberry juice will work as well.  Some people will even keep a small glass of juice at the bedside (just an ounce or two) and automatically drink it when they wake up at night to use the bathroom. 

I am told that horehound is a good mucolytic - I've not tried that as I can't stand the taste.  Some people will chew on a licorice stick (the actual licorice root - not the candy) -  but you need to be very careful if you try that, as too much licorice root can make a person quite ill. 

Also try to keep track of what you are eating/drinking as see if you can identify any foods or liquids that seem to make your cough worse.  Dairy is an especially mucus-causing food. Avoid milk products within at least two hours of bedtime.  If you notice that your coughing IS worse after eating certain foods, be sure to also avoid those foods late in the day.

There could be other reasons for your cough.  Make sure your dr knows you've been having this problem and ask if he has any objections to using any natural remedies - if it's been a while since you've been seen, they may want to double check to make sure you don't have any infection or other on-going respiratory problem, plus making sure the natural remedies won't interfere with any medications, etc.



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