The tips in this article were created by community members in our online forum and support group, and compiled over the course of several months by our dedicated volunteer Parshwa Parekh. Thank you to everyone who shared their time, knowledge, and experience. Together, we can fight PF right now!  

One of the most common symptoms of PF is a dry, hacking cough. For some people, they cough frequently and intensely. For others, it’s less frequent, but when the coughing is triggered, it can last for a long time and be very painful or scary. Severe coughing can even lead to injuries in the rib cage or back. Even in less severe cases, coughing can still negatively impact quality of life by making day-to-day activities (such as talking) or enjoyable hobbies (such as singing) much harder. 

In support group meetups and on our community forum, people all around the world have submitted helpful suggestions to help with this difficult symptom. Each of these recommendations comes directly from people with PF or impacted by it (such as relatives and caregivers), but does not constitute medical advice. As you review each of the ideas below, please note that we always recommend talking to your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan

When it comes to coughing and PF, here are the top 10 ideas to consider asking your healthcare team about:

  1. Staying hydrated, and drinking warm tea with honey
    • Participants recommend using local, organic honey
    • Some participants add lemon, ginger, cinnamon, and/or extra virgin olive oil to their warm tea and honey
    • Other participants have had success with using pineapple juice instead of water – but they warn to start with a small portion since it can be contraindicated if you have a GERD diagnosis or symptoms.
    • Participants also recommend ingesting Manuka honey in particular (at least a few times each week), but caution against adding it to tea since its enzymes can break down in hot water
  2. Learning about inflammation, monitoring inflammation in your own body, and trying natural ways to reduce inflammation.
    • This can include incorporating anti-inflammatory foods and herbs into your diet, trying dietary supplements like NAC or systemic enzymes, limiting inflammatory foods, and ensuring adequate PF-friendly exercise (such as pulmonary rehabilitation, yoga, mindfulness or meditation practices, and breathing exercises).
      • For example, one participant says, “Once I stopped drinking soda or diet soda, the phlegm went away.”
      • Another specific suggestion is Irish sea moss. A participant shared that it helps dissolve phlegm and relieves their inflammation and congestion. 
  3. Reducing environmental exposures.
    • You might be surprised by the harmful or irritating ingredients in common household products, from cosmetics to candles to cleaning products and more. 
    • Learn more about finding or making your own lung-safe products here.
    • Increase oxygen levels in your home by testing air quality, improving ventilation, and surrounding your space with houseplants. A full list of plants known for their ability to filter air is available here.
  1. Using an essential oil diffuser in your house – but making sure to start slow, since some people are sensitive or allergic to certain scents or products.
  2. Using supplemental oxygen, and – if you’re already using it – considering increasing your supplemental oxygen supply.
    • Participants suggest, “Turn the O2 up based on symptoms too, not solely by oximeter reading.” 
  3. Using a wedged pillow while sleeping or laying down.
    • If a wedge pillow isn’t affordable or accessible to you, some participants have reported positive results from propping up their bed with thick phone books or even bricks!
  4. Using cough drops (such as Ricola Dual Action) or peppermint candies – but being careful not to have anything in your mouth during a coughing fit due to the choking hazard.
    • For some, chewing gum is also effective.
  5. Using a nebulizer, an inhaler, and/or a CPAP machine. 
  6. Taking an over-the-counter cough medication a few hours before bedtime.
    • Over-the-counter options identified by the community include Dextromethorphan, Guaifenesin or Mucinex, Chestal, and Tylenol.
  7. Getting a prescription for medication that can help improve the coughing.
    • Prescription options community members have tried include Tessalon Perles, Albuterol, Promethazine or codeine cough syrup, Prednisone, and Gabapentin.

Did you discover a new tip for handling PF symptoms in this blog? Or do you have a tip to add to the list? Please add to the conversation in our online Facebook forum! For step-by-step instructions on joining our community forum, please visit our instruction manual here. If you’d like assistance with joining the Facebook group or have further questions about coughing and PF, reach out to our staff for support.
Once again, we’d like to thank participants in our community forum for supporting each other day and night in the fight against PF. We’d also like to give a big shoutout to Parshwa and other dedicated volunteers who help keep track of the community’s tips and information, and organize them in accessible ways for those who might not be comfortable or familiar with Facebook.

Stay In Touch

PF Now! hosts a virtual support group on Zoom every month. Not only will you strengthen your network of connections but you’ll learn firsthand how those with PF best look after themselves. PF Now! also has a Facebook group whose active community shares their PF journey and their tips with others. New to online support groups? Download our free step-by-step guide for online advocacy here.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information received from us

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