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




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!

Misdiagnosis of Cough Variant Asthma & Inhalers Possibly Making Cough Worse

A few years ago I was diagnosed with cough variant asthma by a respiratory consultant at my local hospital. This was on the basis of a persistent cough. I did not have a metacholine test.

He carefully listened to my history of cough – I described it as seasonal and unresponsive to various inhalers over the years. I explained history of investigations and various treatments I had endured.

“Why aren’t you taking any inhalers now?” (Bad, naughty and disobedient patient!)

“Well my GP hasn’t prescribed any inhalers recently and they don’t work anyway”

“You probably aren’t taking them properly – go away and see the asthma nurse – she will show you how to take them properly. If we get your asthma under control, you will stop coughing!

Asthma nurse demonstrated correct technique of using inhalers. Just like I had been doing. Am told to take the symbicort inhaler year round, which will help reduce the chance of infection and then cough for next winter. Bricanyl to be used when I suffer a bout of coughing.

At my next review, I was still coughing, despite taking the inhalers as prescribed. Could I try codeine? No – we don’t stock it in the pharmacy because it doesn’t work. Keep taking your inhalers. How often are you taking them? Again the inference that I might not be doing as I am told, which is why I continue to cough. I was also told that the cough variant asthma may proceed to full-blown asthma if I wasn’t careful.

“I am doing everything you suggest and I am still coughing. Could you refer me to the regional cough clinic?” From his reaction you would have thought I had just kicked the wise one between the legs. They were extremely reluctant to refer me from my local hospital. How dare I want referral – I must take inhalers and antibiotics and steroids as prescribed. They really were most indignant, but I stood my ground.

At my first appointment at the cough clinic they were very good. It was suggested that I have some further tests and that I carry on taking the inhalers for now.

At a second appointment I was really quite desperate. My sickness record at work was atrocious. Support from my employer being in the form of threat of disciplinary action if I took any more time off due to sickness. I was becoming increasingly depressed. The doctor I saw at that time discussed the inhalers. I explained that I didn’t think they made any difference with the cough and he suggested I stop taking them. He didn’t think I was asthmatic because they were not helping, nor did the steroids or the antibiotics. He suggested I take codeine, tramadol or maybe even morphine to help suppress the cough. I explained I had previously taken codeine, although my GP had been reluctant to prescribe, so I only took the tablets occasionally. He suggested I take 1-2 30mg up to four times a day, but to keep taking them regularly to keep the cough suppressed.

At the moment I am codeine free and have been inhaler free for over four months. My cough is still there, but on a nuisance scale I would only score it 3/10. This time last year I would have scored it 8-10/10. I am convinced that the inhalers were making my cough worse.

I recently had an awful head cold and hit the codeine for about two weeks. It does affect my concentration a little and I do have to slow down a little, but I did not need to take any time off work. The cold did not leave a residual crippling 10/10 cough.

I wouldn’t suggest that anyone suddenly stops taking inhalers unless                                they have received advice from a doctor.

I was misdiagnosed with cough variant asthma despite persistently telling the specialist that the inhalers made no difference. I feel so much better now I am not taking the inhalers. I feel better not being labelled asthmatic too. Patients report that their symbicort inhaler would make them cough for a period of up to two hours or so after taking it. Cough is not listed in the side-effects of this medication, but is a common complaint in online patient forums. I would warn anyone who is being told that they have persistent cough that is due to asthma to carefully consider their options. If a doctor starts you on inhalers, I would suggest your really need to feel a benefit if you are to keep taking them, otherwise go back to your doctor and say they are not working.

Keep well fellow coughers and never be afraid to question the treatment someone asks you to take.

Love from the CoughQueen x

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