How do I Treat a Cough?

Christina Edwards

A cough is a sudden reflex, and it is the body's way of clearing foreign particles from breathing passages. Most of the time coughs are considered to be a good thing, but they can also be quite annoying and interfere with daily activities. To treat a cough, you must first recognize what type of cough it is. There are generally two different types of coughs, productive and non-productive, or dry. Productive coughs should be treated with expectorants, and dry coughs should be treated with lozenges or cough suppressants.

Cough suppressant drops should not be used if the body is coughing to fight a severe infection.
Cough suppressant drops should not be used if the body is coughing to fight a severe infection.

A productive cough is a type of cough that produces some kind of secretion. With this cough, phlegm is brought up, which can be a variety of colors, such as clear, white, yellow, green, or brown. Because this is the body's way of fighting off infection, it is best not to treat a cough of this sort. If you believe that treatment is necessary, cough suppressants or throat lozenges should not be used, as they can possibly cause a build up of phlegm, making the problem worse. Instead, use an over-the-counter expectorant.

Dry coughs can be treated with throat lozenges.
Dry coughs can be treated with throat lozenges.

Expectorants can be purchased at many large supermarkets and pharmacies, typically in syrup form. The purpose of an expectorant is to thin out and help dissolve thick mucus. By doing this, mucous and phlegm from the lungs and bronchi can be expelled from the body much easier.

A dry cough is treated differently than a productive cough.
A dry cough is treated differently than a productive cough.

A dry cough is a cough that produces no phlegm or mucus. This often tickly cough can be quite irritating, and it can be caused by a number of things, including the common cold, asthma, allergies, and pollution. To treat a cough like this completely, you must generally treat the underlying cause. In the meantime, however, there are a few dry cough remedies that could work for you.

A hoarse, sore throat with a cough might be eased with throat lozenges.
A hoarse, sore throat with a cough might be eased with throat lozenges.

One of the easiest ways to treat a cough that is dry is with throat lozenges or cough drops. Hard candy can also be used. These can help soothe a hoarse, sore throat and keep the throat moist to help prevent any further irritation. For children under the age of three, however, this remedy isn't recommended, as the small, hard lozenges could become a choking hazard.

Phlegm that is coughed up should be spit out, not swallowed.
Phlegm that is coughed up should be spit out, not swallowed.

Cough suppressants are sometimes recommended by physicians to treat a cough that is not producing any phlegm. Dextromethorphan is a popular type of cough suppressant, and any cough syrup labeled DM will typically contain it. Unlike an expectorant, which will encourage you to cough, a cough suppressant will help lessen the urge to cough.

A dry cough may be caused by asthma.
A dry cough may be caused by asthma.
Hard candy may help soothe a sore throat.
Hard candy may help soothe a sore throat.
Codeine cough syrup is very effective at treating a cough.
Codeine cough syrup is very effective at treating a cough.

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Discussion Comments

healthy4life

I treat a bronchitis cough by using steam. I sometimes boil a pot of water and hang my head over it to inhale deeply while draping a towel over my head to capture the steam.

I use a humidifier on the warm setting in my house, and I shut the door to the room it's in to capture a lot of moisture. I sit in there and let it bring on the phlegm!

Coughing that much is exhausting, but I feel like it's best to get it over with. Anything that encourages the phlegm to come out makes me recover faster, though it may be unpleasant at the time.

DylanB

@wavy58 – I have found that drinking hot tea works just as well as using cough drops. I buy the kind that is designed to coat sore throats. It is lemon echinacea tea, and I sweeten it with honey, which also can relieve a sore throat or calm a cough.

It's important to make the tea with water and not milk, though. Milk can make your body produce more mucus, making your cough even worse.

wavy58

The best way to treat a cough that feels like a tickle in your throat is with cough drops. The menthol kind are awesome if you also have nasal congestion, but if all you have is a cough, you can go with any sort of fruity flavored cough drop.

I keep these in my purse at all times. I never know when I'm going to need them, and I hate getting caught without them and having a major coughing fit.

For some reason, just drinking water isn't enough to stop it. I need the thick coating of the cough drops to soothe my throat.

OeKc05

I know I probably shouldn't treat my bronchitis cough with a suppressant, but if I don't, I can't get any rest! I can stop using it during the day, I suppose, but at night, I have to have it.

Otherwise, I feel like I'm suffocating when I lie down. I cough and gasp for air constantly, and the cough suppressant is the only thing that gives me a break.

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