The Power of the Onion

I love onions. Gently  fried and used as a base for a bolognese, or a soup, or to accompany a chunky sausage in a barm! (bread roll/hot dog roll) Roasted with sweet potatoes. Mild onions thinly sliced in a salad or pickled onions whose strength forces you to chomp on them open mouthed. Onions are lovely and potentially addictive.

Social media can be a huge distraction when we are attempting to do proper stuff on our pooters and recently I was distracted by an image with slices of onions being inserted into socks. What on earth is that all about? I have written previously about the benefits of smothering your feet with Vicks Vaporub, so was curious as to what an onion might be able to offer.

I have visited the Eden Centre and am well aware of medications being derived from plant ingredients. With any scientific theory I try to be open minded.

Apparently onions have some very special and powerful properties, but the scientists are lagging behind with the research to back any of this up formally. The following suggestions are simply that, suggestions which are recommended but not backed  up as yet with any firm science. I cannot think of any hazards to using onions in such a manner and if my cough is exacerbated, I will be reaching for the onions in the veg rack!

  • Cut onions in half and place in a bowl. Leave them in various rooms of the house during the winter months – apparently they can hoover up bacteria in the atmosphere that can lead to colds and flu. The onions should be replaced after three months. People who do this state that they do not suffer from coughs and colds. The particular onion suggested is the white onion rather than the more common brown onion. I cannot see that such a practice would be hazardous, although visitors might raise an eyebrow or two.
  • Slices of onions in your socks. The suggestion is that if you place slices of onions in your socks, they will help detoxify your blood and reduce the effects of respiratory illness. Supporters suggest they will help you if you have a persistent cough or are suffering with a cold or flu. An old pair of thick socks and perhaps a towel under your feet to protect the mattress??
  • Onions were used in times of plague and more recently when ebola was rife in Africa. This suggests that the humble onion contains properties which will boost the immune system. For centuries, people have put their faith in the antibacterial properties of the onion.
  • I have even managed to find a cough linctus. Honey and onion cough syrup. ‘Everyday roots’ “” provides detailed instructions on how to make such a syrup. I have tried nearly every cough syrup on the market and worry what this might taste like, but there is the reassurance that it does not contain any ingredients that might lead to overdose and also is safe to use when driving. I am tempted to get a bottle made tomorrow to have in the cupboard as a standby. This cough linctus is completely natural and does not contain any artificial additives. No sulphites to exacerbate an already troublesome cough.

I hope I have given you a bit to think about here. A troublesome cough can send you to a very dark place. Perhaps onions are an unrecognised cure?? Perhaps some of this can help?

I do hope so, love as always,

The CoughQueen xxx




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Chocolate to Treat Chronic Cough

A recent newspaper article mentions the use of chocolate to treat a cough!

The headline reads – “Never mind honey and lemon, the best cure for a cough is CHOCOLATE: Leading professor busts common cough myths.”

Read more:

Before you reach for the a cup of hot chocolate or a chocolate bar I would suggest you read the article linked above.

To summarise

  • A clinical trial ROCOCO has demonstrated that an over the counter cough linctus (Unicough) that contains cocoa is more effective than standard linctus.
  • Unicough was shown to reduce cough frequency and sleep disturbance within two days.
  • Drinking hot chocolate will not have the same effect. The linctus sticks to the throat because of its consistency. Sucking on a piece of chocolate may have a similar effect, but there are other ingredients in the linctus which may enhance the effects of the cocoa.
  • It is thought that the cocoa can somehow soothe the nerve endings which trigger the cough reflex. How this mechanism works is not yet clear.
  • The results of the ROCOCO trial have not yet been published but the results have got experts very excited.

Please note – I have no affiliation with Unicough or Infirst healthcare. I have also researched other linctus products which contain cocoa and have found an American product ‘Dr Cocoa Cough Linctus’ which is specially designed for children, although I suspect the cocoa is simply designed at making the medicine taste nice rather than for the beneficial effects of the cocoa.


Hope this helps

The CoughQueen x




Happy New Year!

Hello and welcome to ‘Coughoff’ which is a resource written by a professional cougher of fifteen years +


This year I plan to focus on

  • Diet and fitness, with an emphasis on what we should and shouldn’t be eating and how best to improve fitness when struggling with a chronic cough
  • Self treatment
  • Reflective reports – what works and what doesn’t
  • Warnings – there are a lot of weirdos out there
  • I am also working on making my blog a little more interesting visually.


I welcome any feedback you might want to leave.

Best wishes,


The CoughQueen x

morphine (MST) and chronic cough

Recent visit to cough clinic and they were concerned with the amount of codeine I was consuming, with increasingly little effect (up to 30 mg four times a day). They suggested I swap to MST, which is a slow release morphine. 5mg morning and night. Was a but worried about taking a controlled drug, but advised that it was at a low level and that it wouldn’t affect my ability to drive etc.
Took some initially, but then have stopped, due to being a seasonal cougher.
With autumn fast approaching, I have another plan of attack when the cough threatens to take over.
Will keep you posted folks,

CoughQueen xxx

SALT exercises for Chronic Cough

A chronic cough can make your life utterly miserable. It will attack you both mentally and physically as well as financially and socially.

Typically sufferers will use medication to treat their cough, but having been prescribed more than my fair share of ineffective medications as well as buying lots of useless products over the counter, I am a strong believer in attacking the cough from as many angles as possible.

Love it or hate it though, medication is a key aspect and one that most people will turn to first. Diet and changes to a conventional or lazy western diet can help immensely with many illnesses. I avoid sulphites as much as possible. A strong mental attitude is crucial, being strong and keeping positive can reflect upon your physical health. Keep your ‘personal space’ clean and clutter free. I always carry alcohol gel when I am out and about to clean my hands. There are some dirty coughs and sneezers out there. I use a tea tree oil spray at home and at work to help keep my airspace clean.

Researchers are continuing to investigate the area of SALT (Speech and Language Therapy) exercises and their effect on chronic cough.  The theory is that exercises that strengthen the muscles in the throat and encourage better breathing can help combat irritation when a bout of chronic coughing occurs.

The problem with chronic cough is that coughing causes irritation in the throat, which in turn increases the over active or more correctly  over sensitive cough response. So when you next cough, you will further increase the irritation in your throat and increase the hyper responsive cough reflex. This is because an irritated throat struggles to regulate a ‘normal’ cough reflex. You might also find that your voice becomes hoarse. You then try to talk a bit more louder to compensate and again, this will further irritate.

SALT exercises will vary slightly from centre to centre, but the main reason for doing them is to strengthen the muscles of the throat and reduce the temptation to cough. Researchers have demonstrated that this is effective,

“…due to reduced laryngeal irritation which results in decreased cough sensitivity, decreased urge to cough and an increased cough threshold.” (Ryan et al in Cough, 2010 Cough reflex sensitivity improves with speech language pathology management of refractory chronic cough)

Exercise 1 – Sniff and swallow.

Forget good manners. This exercise can help prevent a bout of coughing.

When you feel a cough coming on take a big sniff and then swallow. The reason for this is to clear your airways. Please do not substitute this exercise for regular nose blowing into a handkerchief. There is no substitute for that and you want to clear your airways not the room!

Every time you feel the urge to cough, take a big sniff and then swallow. It does take a bit of practice and it is suggested that if you forget to sniff pre cough, you do so afterwards, to help try and get into a routine.

I find that by regularly practising this exercise, bouts of coughing are reduced and are not as severe.

Exercise 2 – Stick your tongue out!

Stick your tongue out and hold it between your lips. Then swallow. You should find that it is harder to swallow because your tongue is ‘stretched’.

Try and repeat this exercise 5 times in the morning and the evening.

Exercise 3 – Breathe!

Yes we breathe automatically, but we don’t use anywhere near our full lung capacity. Try taking a deep breath in and then breathing out slowly and steadily until it feels like there is no air left in your lungs. When you then take a breath in, you will automatically take a much deeper breath. Breathe normally for a minute or so and repeat. 5-10 breaths morning and evening.

Just a word of caution – if you are not used to breathing exercises and if you go too hard too quickly you can make yourself feel light headed, so this is an exercise to practise in the safety of your armchair and if you do feel light headed, take it a bit easier!

I have been practising these exercises regularly for a couple of months. I suffer with a seasonal chronic cough which is normally triggered after a cold, so I don’t know whether these exercises will be of any use or not, but I do feel much more prepared for winter knowing I have another element of attack!

Codeine after a few weeks

I don’t wish to brag, but I am having a really good winter.(For me, as a person who has regularly needed to take between 3-6 wks off work every winter. I had about 10 days off in October and nothing since) I think that to put it quite simply, there aren’t that many nasty cold viruses knocking about, although I have heard of people being attacked by a really nasty cold that leaves them quite weary for weeks after.

I keep clear from sneezers and I have used the cold attack nasal spray on a few occasions.

Confession time – no kale smoothie has passed my lips for over three weeks, but I am eating reasonably healthily and trying to avoid processed foods.

I haven’t been using public transport as much as I would like. I value the exercise and the break from driving in awful rush hour traffic. I wonder if perhaps travelling for half an hour or so in my own space is better for me than two brisk 30 minute walks and sharing a germ ridden train for 12 minutes. A couple of months ago I was waiting on the platform for the train and I saw a guy blow his nose into his bare hand and then put his hand in his trouser pocket to wipe his hand clean. He was well dressed and looked like an ordinary decent chap. I had to move away from the area quickly. I was appalled.

I have been taking the codeine on an intermittent basis. Dosage has been a bit off and on. I do find it makes me a touch ‘skittlish!’ I am more jovial than usual, but unfortunately I have been a bit more forgetful than usual. I wonder if my poor memory is due to a stressful job, which just keeps becoming more complicated by the day or whether the codeine is causing it. The forgetfulness is not as severe as when I was taking (as prescribed) a double dose of montelukast. That was scary.

I had initially been taking up to six 15 mg tablets a day, but have recently reduced that to one in the morning and one in the evening. I have reduced the dose primarily because my cough simply isn’t that troublesome. I was also a bit worried that the codeine might be affecting my memory. I do not feel the urge to take the tablets, I do not consider them addictive compared with my first coffee of the morning or my Friday night gin and tonic!

The Daily Mail have been happy to report about the dangers of over the counter medication.

Shouldn’t we put such articles into context though?

Any medication has contra-indications, side effects and potential mystery properties yet to be discovered. This has to be balanced though against the reason you take the medication. A throbbing headache will reduce your concentration which in turn could then lead to an increased chance of accident. Would you want a surgeon suffering with full blown hay fever symptoms operating on you?

As the users of such medication we have a responsibility to ourselves too. We shouldn’t be taking tablets without question, even though some doctors do not like to be questioned. You have to ask yourself if you really need that pain killer or antihistamine. Is there another treatment that is safer to use?

I still suffer with pollution. Traffic fumes, aerosol sprays and dust will set me off coughing. Rapid changes in temperature will set me off coughing too, but not as much as usual. Sulphites will also trigger bouts of coughing to the point of drooling like a rabid dog. I have given up on white wine, although red is better tolerated.

Thank you for reading


CoughQueen xxx

Codeine and SALT!

15th Winter of cough.

I recently went to see the Doctor at the specialist Cough Clinic at Manchester and they recommended a combination of codeine and speech therapy. I was offered tramadol, codeine or morphine sulphate, but with previous good response to occasional doses of codeine they suggested I continue with codeine. For best effect it was recommended 30 mg 3 or 4 times a day and take regardless, not just when the cough is bad. They asked why I wasn’t taking codeine regularly and I explained that it isn’t that easy to get a dr to prescribe. My GP is quite happy to prescribe such medication at a low dose to see if it helps, but not so keen to prescribe on a regular basis because if risk of constipation or addiction. The chest specialist at my local hospital told me that they didn’t stock codeine in the pharmacy because it doesn’t work for chronic cough. (How glad I am to have been referred to Manchester and I don’t have to see him anymore!)

Don’t get me wrong, codeine doesn’t work for everyone. I was talking to another cougher the other day, hoarse voice, “I’ve had this cough for years” and we had a compare and contrast moment. We had both been down the route of treatment for reflux, post nasal drip and potential asthma diagnosis. We compared medications as you do! She mentioned that she had been prescribed codeine, but unfortunately reacted badly to it and managed to embarrass herself at work as a result. Codeine can make you feel quite spaced out.

Speech and Language Therapy is useful because they can teach you how to look after your throat and break the vicious cough cycle. An irritated throat is more likely to initiate a cough and the more you cough, the more your throat becomes irritated. The exciting prospect is that with a little bit of practice you can help to suppress a cough.

The Guys leaflet (reference/link above) briefly talks about the causes of cough and then goes into detail about how the cougher can do exercises which help reduce the cough reflex. It does mean carrying water with you at all times, but most chronic coughers will do this anyway.

I have also found an article from the Advanced Healthcare Network which gives some slightly different exercises to follow.

I would suggest that you go and see your GP or specialist to discuss such exercises before starting them.

The Manchester Cough Clinic staff suggest using the Speech and Language Dept at their hospital because they refer so many chronic coughers and the therapists are developing a level of expertise that you wouldn’t necessarily find at your local hospital.

I have now had three days much improved with the regular codeine. Cough severity reduced from 7/10 to 3-4/10. I am currently free from infection, but we are now officially in winter and it is definite hat and gloves weather. With codeine even the transition from warm house to cold outside isn’t as cough provoking as previously.

Will update you with my progress,

Coughqueen x

Recipes to keep you well

How is everyone doing? There doesn’t seem to be too many coughs and colds in my area, but then the cold weather is just starting to set in now….

I had a nasty cold back in October, but had been very run down and I think I was just unlucky. I took a week or so off work and returned having spent most of that time drinking kale smoothies and chicken soup.

I have continued with the smoothies and have remained cold free, although I have had sneezes and sore throats trying to develop into a cold, but nothing has really got me yet. I have used that cold virus preventer spray a few times too. I have also developed the habit of using an alcohol hand gel after I have been on the train and when I have been in any public place, although I prefer to wash my hands properly.

I take a good quality multivitamin every other day. I have upped my exercise and walk at least three miles three times a week.

Every day I drink at least one large glass of my home-made kale smoothie. You will need a blender.

  1. Grapes, a good handful. Yes they contain naturally occurring sulphites, but that doesn’t seem to bother me.
  2. An apple. I cut out the funny little furry bit at the bottom and I also pull the stalk off, but I put the apple including peel and core into the blender.
  3. A slice of ginger – about the size of a 10 pence piece. I leave the peel on. Life is too short to peel ginger and my blender pulverizes it anyway.
  4. A wedge of lemon or lime without the peel
  5. KALE! I squish at least two mugs worth of kale into the blender.
  6. EXPERIMENT – at this point I see what I have got knocking about. I have added raw carrot, frozen pineapple, frozen banana, frozen blueberries (frozen only to preserve them, you could use fresh)
  7. Ice – my blender will turn cold liquids warm if left running for too long, but it doesn’t mind ice, so I put plenty of ice in
  8. Water – I usually put about two-thirds of a mug of water in. I like to be able to pour the finished product rather than eat with a spoon.

I blast this in the blender until it is lump free and smooth. If you use green grapes and neutral coloured (yellow/green rather than red) fruit and veg the smoothie will be a rich dark green colour. If you add blueberries, it will not look terribly appetising but will still taste delicious. The smoothie is sweet, but not over sweet like those very expensive little blighters you can buy in the supermarkets. Whilst they might not look terribly appetising, brave colleagues have tried it and been pleasantly surprised, with many asking for the recipe.

The smoothie keeps for up to three days in the fridge, although I try to drink it within 36 hours.

The chicken soup I made was so simple, yet delicious and even when full of a cold, it wasn’t too difficult.

  1. Your biggest pan or pot that you can use on the hob
  2. One large or two small onions, thickly sliced and placed in the bottom of the pot
  3. A carrot cut into three of four pieces
  4. A leek sliced into three or four pieces (make sure you wash the beggar properly or your soup could end up gritty. You could use celery instead/or as well as
  5. The idea of all the veg in first is simply to keep the chicken off the bottom of the pan
  6. A free range chicken – it makes me feel less guilty and I think the quality of the meat is far superior
  7. Cover with water
  8. Add a good grinding of pepper
  9. Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for about two hours. I would suggest that you use a large spoon to take off the scum that will float to the surface.
  10. After a couple of hours I lift the chicken out and place it in a colander over another large pan or bowl. I then pour the remaining contents over the chicken so that they filter through the colander. The aim of this is to catch the chicken and all the bones, so that you don’t end up with bones in your soup.
  11. I strip the chicken, which is the worst part of the operation, but I believe an awful lot of the goodness of this soup comes from the bones and the skin.
  12. I then put the stock and the shredded chicken back in the pan. If you want to add the veg, well why not?

This soup is delicious and you might want to add more pepper as well as some salt. Garlic is lovely. Pearl barley adds a bit of bulk.

Happy cooking, the coughqueen xxx

Somewhere Over the Counter… (remedies available without prescription to ease cough)

Paracetamol is an analgesic which also helps reduce your body’s temperature. It can help with the aches and pains you suffer when you have a cold. Paracetamol will to some extent the chest pain you get with prolonged bouts of coughing. Usually in 500 mg tablets and strictly no more than 8 in 24 hours. Be careful because other preparations such as Night Nurse contain paracetamol and you can quite easily overdose if you take too much.

Cocodamol is a combination of paracetamol and codeine in one tablet. Over the counter you can buy 8mg codeine combined with 500 mg paracetamol. Codeine is known for its powers to suppress cough, although those who do not suffer with a persistent cough will argue in favour of the research which says it is ineffective. Those in the know will argue that codeine and it’s close relative morphine have the ability to suppress a cough. I love codeine, it suppresses my cough to some extent. It can be addictive apparently, but at higher doses you can only get it on prescription and if it helps your winter cough…? Plus – how many of us are Hollywood actors with all the stress that it entails?! I have never felt the urge to pop a codeine unless my cough is proving intolerable. The other grave contra indication is that it can cause constipation, but if you are taking in a healthy amount of fruit and veg, this shouldn’t be a problem, especially if you are following my kale smoothie recipe!

Night Nurse is rather marvellous and helps you drift off to sleep and stay there. Night nurse contains paracetamol along with two ingredients which are known for their cough suppressant properties – promethazine and dextromethorphan. I tried this many years ago and slept like a log despite a raging cold and divorceable cough. It does not contains sulphites.

Day Nurse is also available. It contains paracetamol as well as pseudoephedrine (decongestant or ‘unblocker’)  and pholcodine (cough suppressant). I have never tried this, although I have taken the pseudoephedrine and pholcodine separately.

Lemsip can only be recommended if you enjoy the taste of powdered lemon. It can also contain paracetamol, depending upon which version you buy. I would recommend a couple of paracetamol washed down with hot water with honey and lemon rather than wasting your money on this.

Beechams Powders similar to lemsip.

Pholcodine is available over the counter. 5 mg/5mls and the dose is 5-10 mls 3 to 4 times a day. The trouble is pholcodine does work for a persistent cough and you might be tempted to take more than the recommended dose. I would suggest you mix 5mls with a double dose of warm water to eke out the doses. Pholcodine is available in a double strength prescription only dose, but this equates to the maximum over the counter dose anyway.

Vaporub – Vick is the best though and I would suggest you look for offers. Rub it on your chest and your back or ask a good friend to do this for you 🙂 and also applied to the soles of the feet too it can provide quite a high level of relief.

Decongestants are available over the counter including pseudoephedrine and whilst these can relieve the misery of a snotty cold, they do not seem to have any cough suppressant properties. I have not bought these for several years.

Piriton is an older or ‘dirty’ type of antihistamine. ‘Dirty’ is the term used for a drug with several side effects. In this case it is an antihistamine, so it will help relieve the symptoms of hay fever, but it also helps reduce the cough reflex. Be warned that this can also cause drowsiness, so maybe better as a bedroom drug!

Menthol crystals absolutely not to be confused with crystal meth. Dissolve the crystals in hot water and enjoy the vapours they release. Do not drink!.

Always read the labels to check for contra indications. Some of the preparations listed above might not be suitable.

Home Remedies to Alleviate Cough

A cough can often become particularly troublesome in the early hours. I tend to scour the internet looking for things I can do there and then.

  • Keep yourself hydrated, especially if a cold has triggered your cough. Icy cold drinks tend to make me cough, so whilst I drink plenty of water I do let it warm up a little bit first.
  • hot water with honey and lemon can work as I’ve mentioned in a previous post.
  • I have not yet tried thyme tea. It is supposed to help relieve respiratory symptoms. You can make it yourself with two teaspoons of crushed leaves to a cup of boiling water. It helps soothe the muscles in the airways thus helping reduce the urge to cough.
  • I am currently addicted to the powerful immune boosting smoothies I have been making at home in my blender. Whilst I have felt the beginning of a cold symptoms such as sore throat etc I have not yet succumbed for a month now, which is something of a record for me. My smoothies usually contain a mixture of fruit and veg. I always put kale in. Raw kale 😉
  • Try and eat a healthy diet! Whilst the warm puddings feel almost obligatory now the dark nights are here, try to focus on healthy food first with plenty of fruit and veg.
  • I try to avoid sulphites during the cough and cold season. WIne makes me cough. Beer makes me cough. Beware of mince pies and all those potential sulphites in the dried fruit and cherries. Beware the brandy sauce with cornflour. I would suggest to anyone that they try removing as many sulphites from their diet for a test period and see how you get on.
  • Essential oils can be highly effective, but they do need to be treated with caution. I use a small spray bottle which holds approx 50 mls. I add two drops of tea tree oil and then fill it up with water. I then spray it in the air around me at home and in my office. (Check with others around you – I find that when I say it helps neutralise cold and flu bugs people are more than happy for me to spray away) If you don’t overdo the tea tree it also works as a pleasant air freshener too.
  • Olbas oil (or similar type of preparation) helps soothe the airways. I dab it on my clothes if I am really suffering, otherwise several drops on a cloth hanky and keep breathing it in.
  • Try and keep on top of the housework. Dust can exacerbate a cough.
  • Talking of air fresheners I would suggest avoiding aerosols of any kind. The plug-in air fresheners can be equally irritating, unless you are used to them year round in your home. When I visit friends I can detect a plug-in air freshener from the door mat!
  • Keep a cough diary. Record everything you eat and drink and make a note of anything that makes you cough. You might find there is a pattern.
  • All this coughing and the temptation of comforting winter food will mean you are more likely to put on weight. I always try to exercise. Even if it means coughing like fury whilst I walk to the train station in the cold damp air. I find that the more I exercise, the less the cough, but I have to push myself. Try an exercise app which charts your progress.
  • Changes in temperature set me off coughing. I wear one of those tubular scarves and pull it up over my mouth and nose. It does help because I am not breathing in cold air all of a sudden.
  • I also wear plenty of layers so that I can adapt more easily to my environment. Trying to keep warm without being too hot and stuffy helps.
  • Whilst out and about try to avoid any pollution if you can. Avoid walking next to busy main roads if there is an alternate route. Avoid walking past building sites and road works if you can possibly help it. Dust and traffic fumes will not help.
  • Avoid talking/singing for long periods of time. I talk for a living and find that regular warm drinks help.
  • A natural follow on to regular drinks is to look after your pelvic floor. Do those exercises, they will help.
  • Offer to sleep separately from your partner. My husband refers to my cough as divorceable.
  • Don’t put up with a cough for more than a couple of weeks without going to see your GP. I suffer with seasonal bronchial hyperresponsiveness which basically means that once I have picked up a cold, I will cough like fury until the start of the hay fever season.

None of this advice is meant to avoid or replace advice given by a Dr. I would also suggest that if you don’t have a good patient doctor relationship, find a Dr who you have confidence in.


Keep well and remember you are not alone!