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Respiratory diseases

Isabel Weinert & Marta Campbel
26.09.2018  11:25 Uhr

In winter, when we are plagued by cough and hoarseness, the first thing we think of is a cold. But possible other causes also have to be considered: for example an influenza, which should be treated by a doctor, but also asthma as well as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which in the case of a viral infection can exacerbate. In this case special caution is called for.

Apart from respiratory diseases, heart failure can also cause coughing (cardiac asthma). Especially among children and older people, possible aspiration of foreign particles also needs to be considered. And finally, coughing could be a side-effect of medication, such as the dry cough when taking ACE inhibitors. In the case of hoarseness, especially if unaccompanied by other cold symptoms and/or if persisting for longer than two weeks, a consultation with the doctor is called for.

Should cough and hoarseness be caused by a trivial respiratory infection, then it is a case for self-medication. Ninety percent of all common colds are caused by viruses, bacteria only play a minor role. If there is a virus infection, bacteria seize that opportunity to appear, but such superinfections are rather rare. For a long time, a green colouring of the mucus was seen as an unmistakable indicator of bacteria involvement, however, systematic sputum analyses have not validated this theory. Based on this, antibiotics are as a rule not indicated for cough and hoarseness. However, should the complaints not subside without antibiotics, a visit to the doctor is unavoidable.


  • How long have you had the cough/hoarseness?
  • When does the cough occur? Are there certain triggers?
  • Is the cough dry or is mucus coughed up?
  • Do you have any pain when ­coughing up?
  • Do you have a temperature?
  • Do you smoke, and if so, how much?
  • Do you suffer from respiratory ­distress and/or from rattling or whistling breathing sounds?
  • Do you have any other symptoms which would indicate a cold?
  • Do you suffer from heartburn?
  • Have you been using your voice too much lately?


  • The symptoms of an acute bronchitis can be mitigated by using pelargonium extract. The cough subsides and coughing up is being eased.
  • Pelargonium extract may be used for infants aged one year and over.
  • Pelargonium extract, if taken together with certain antidepressants, the serotonin antagonists, can lead to severe breathing and circulatory disorders.
  • An overdose of dextromethorphan causes a state of excitation, change of consciousness and hallucinations. This is associated with an increase of severe, potentially life-threatening side-effects.
  • An alternative to dextromethorphan is pentoxyverine. This cough suppressant has been approved for adults and children aged two years and over.
  • An extract from Iceland moss as well as primrose root extract form a protective coating over the damaged mucous membrane. Ribwort works in the same way.
  • Inhaling with a sage infusion is another remedy against irritation of the throat as well as hoarseness.
  • Ambroxol and N-Acetylcysteine are expectorants.
  • Ivy extract and thyme extract are herbal cough expectorants.

Additional information

  • Inhaling with thyme or sage can help to loosen tight mucus.
  • Chamomile and fennel are both suitable inhalants for pharyngitis with hoarseness.
  • A proven home remedy is hot fennel milk with honey.
  • When suffering from hoarseness it will help to give your vocal cords a rest. Whispering is the wrong thing to do as it strains the vocal cords exceedingly. It is better to speak quietly.
  • If the hoarseness is very severe, a strict ban on speaking is imperative.
  • Smoking and alcohol should also be taboo.
  • Homeopathic remedies are spongia for hoarseness caused by strain and Drosera for hoarseness due to infection.
Deutsch / German Englisch / English
Abhusten coughing up
Atemnot respiratory distress, dyspnoea, difficulty in breathing
Aufguss infusion
Bronchitis bronchitis
Efeu ivy
Extrakt extract
Fenchel fennel
Flüstern whisper, whispering
Heiserkeit hoarseness
Husten cough
Hustenstiller cough suppressant,
Kamille chamomile
Primel primrose
Rachen throat
Reizhusten dry cough
Schleimlöser expectorant
Sodbrennen heartburn, pyrosis
Stimmbänder vocal cords
Superinfektion superinfection
Thymian thyme
Vocabulary on respiratory diseases