Cough: What You Need to Know

Bothered by a cough? Whether it’s a persistent dry cough or a chesty cough, coughs can be a real nuisance. But since coughing can be a symptom of many different issues, it can sometimes be hard to know what type of cough you have, what’s causing it, and what the best treatment is.i

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of cough with Panadol. 

Why Am I Coughing? Common Cough Causes

The most common cause of cough in adults is a virus, such as a cold or the flu.ii  Coughing is a common symptom of both conditions, although the flu tends to cause a more ‘dry’ cough.iii 

A cough can also be caused by infections like whooping cough, bronchitis or pneumonia, however, these are less common.ii 

Besides viruses, other causes of a cough may include:i, iv

  • Smoking
  • Heartburn (acid reflux)
  • Allergies such as hay fever
  • Postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat)

Types of Cough: Dry Cough, Chesty Cough and More

When you have a dry cough, it means that your body is not producing phlegm (mucus), and your cough may feel tickly. A chesty (or ‘wet’) cough, however, does produce mucus.v, ix

Cough Remedies: What is the Best Treatment for a Cough?

While you may be searching for remedies to help get rid of a cough fast, unfortunately, there is often no quick fix. If your cough is caused by a virus or viral infection, an antibiotic will not help you to stop coughing.ii 

Most coughs will go away on their own, but there are some things you can do to help ease your cough symptoms:ii 

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water.
  • Rest. Avoid too much physical activity.
  • Try some honey. Honey may help to reduce the severity and duration of your cough. Try 1-2 teaspoons of honey 30 minutes before bedtime (do not give honey to children under the age of 12 months).
  • Avoid smoke. If you smoke, try to cut down or quit – and stay clear of others’ tobacco smoke.

How long is too long for a cough?

How long a cough lasts will depend on the cause. A cold or flu virus can cause a cough that may persist for up to 3 weeks, even after your other symptoms are gone. However, if your cough doesn’t clear up after 3 weeks, speak to a doctor so they can investigate the cause.ii, v You should also seek medical attention if your cough is severe or worsening – or if you become short of breath, cough up blood or develop a fever.ii

How Can I Help Prevent a Cough?

There are many simple ways to help reduce your risk of catching a virus that may cause a cough:

  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water (or use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available).iii, viii
  • Don’t touch your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – especially with unwashed hands. This is a common way that a virus can enter the body.viii
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue. Then, throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands right away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough into your elbow to cover your mouth.iii
  • Clean surfaces. Cleaning regularly touched surfaces like desk spaces, computer keyboards or phones helps to get rid of germs.iii
  • Stay away from others who are sick. Viruses can spread through close contact with other people.viii

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Sources

i. Cough. NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cough/. Accessed 03/06/20.

ii. Cough. Health Direct.  https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/cough#:~:text=The%20most%20common%20cause%20of,sinusitis. Accessed 03/06/20.

iii. Colds. Health Direct. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/colds. Accessed 03/06/20.

iv. That nagging cough. Harvard Health, Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/that-nagging-cough. Accessed 03/06/20.

v. Cough. NHS Inform (Scotland). https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/lungs-and-airways/cough. Accessed 03/06/20.

vi. Whooping cough. Australian Government Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/whooping-cough-pertussis#symptoms. Accessed 03/06/20.

vii. Croup. Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/croup. Accessed 03/06/20.

viii. Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html. Accessed 04/06/20.