Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Cold & flu health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Cough relief and cough treatments

Constant coughing can stop you in your tracks and make you miserable. During the cold and flu season you're even more at risk of developing a hacking cough that leaves your chest aching. However, colds and flu aren't the only problems that cause coughing. Allergies, asthma, heartburn, dry air and smoking are also common causes of coughs. Even some medicines for high blood pressure and allergies can trigger a chronic cough.

Try these tips to manage your cough at home:

Stay hydrated

An upper respiratory tract infection like a cold or flu causes postnasal drip. Extra secretions trickle down the back of your throat, irritating it and sometimes causing a cough. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to thin out the mucus in postnasal drip.

Drinking liquids also helps to keep mucous membranes moist. This is particularly helpful in the winter when homes tend to be dry - another cause of coughing.

Try lozenges and hot drinks

Some experts suggest menthol cough drops, which help numb the back of the throat and tend to decrease the cough reflex.

Drinking warm tea with honey may also soothe the throat. There is some clinical evidence to support this approach. A study involving 105 children, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, investigated the soothing properties of honey. The researchers concluded that honey was the most effective cough treatment compared to an over-the-counter medicine, or no treatment at all.

However, the NHS says while this study indicates honey may be of some help with cough symptoms, larger studies on the longer term use of honey are needed. It also points out that because of the risk of infant botulism, honey should never be given to a child under one year old and medical attention should always be sought for a persistent cough.

Take steamy showers and use a humidifier

A hot shower can help a cough by loosening secretions in the nose. Experts say this remedy can help ease coughs not only from colds, but also from allergies and asthma.

Humidifiers may also help. In a dry, centrally heated home, nasal secretions can become dried out and uncomfortable. Putting moisture back in the air can help your cough, but be careful not to overdo it.

Also make sure the humidifier is cleaned properly and frequently or it can become a reservoir for pumping out fungus, mould and bacteria into the air.

Remove irritants in the air

Perfumes and scented bathroom sprays may seem harmless, but for some people they can cause chronic, or long-term, sinus irritation. This can lead to a chronic cough because of the production of excess mucus. Take control by avoiding such scented products.

The worst irritant in the air, of course, is smoke. Almost all smokers eventually develop a 'smoker's cough'. Also, everyone around the smoker may suffer from some airway irritation. The best solution is to stop smoking. Doctors warn that severe chronic coughs can be a sign of COPD ( chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or lung cancer, so be sure to seek medical advice if you're a smoker with a chronic (long-term) cough.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

man holding back
Myths & facts about back pain
hands grabbing knee
How to keep your joints healthy
bowl of soup
Small changes that lead to weight loss
cute baby
Simple tips to keep baby's skin healthy
cute dog
10 common allergy triggers
Do you know what causes hair loss?
woman exercising
Exercises for low back pain
sperm and egg
Facts to help you get pregnant
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning for a healthy home
rash on skin
Soothe skin and prevent flare-ups
mother and child
Could your baby be allergic to milk?
pregnant woman eating healthy salad
Nutrition needs before pregnancy