Coughing is your body's way of
removing foreign substances and
mucus from your
lungs and upper airway passages. Productive coughs are often useful, and you
should not try to eliminate them. Sometimes, though, coughs are severe enough
to impair breathing or prevent rest. Home treatment can help you feel more
comfortable when you have a cough.
Home treatment for adults
dehydration. Fluids may help thin secretions and
soothe an irritated throat. Dry, hacking coughs respond to honey in hot water,
tea, or lemon juice.
Elevate your head with extra pillows at night
to ease a dry cough.
Try a cough drop to soothe an irritated
throat. Expensive medicine-flavored cough drops are no better than inexpensive
candy-flavored drops or hard candy. Most cough drops have no effect on the
Quit smoking and do not use other forms
of tobacco, especially while you have a cough. For more information on quitting
smoking, see the topic
Avoid exposure to
inhaled irritants, such as smoke, dust, or other pollutants, or wear a face
mask that is appropriate for the exposure. Many kinds of face masks are
available. Check with your doctor or
pharmacist to determine which type of face mask will
provide you with the most benefit.
If you suspect problems with
stomach acid may be contributing to your cough, see the topic
Cough preparations may help your
cough. Avoid cold remedies that combine medicines to treat many symptoms. It is
generally better to treat each symptom separately. There are two kinds of cough
medicines: expectorants and suppressants.
Expectorants help thin
the mucus and make it easier to cough mucus up when you have a productive
Use an expectorant if you have a cough that
produces thick mucus and you are having difficulty coughing the mucus up. Don't
depend entirely on an expectorant to thin the mucus. Drink plenty of water
Look for expectorants containing guaifenesin, such as
Robitussin, Mucinex, and Vicks 44E.
Suppressants control or
suppress the cough reflex and work best for a dry, hacking cough that keeps you
Use cough suppressants wisely. Don't
suppress a productive cough too much, unless it is keeping you from getting
enough rest. Coughing is useful because it brings up mucus from the lungs and
helps prevent bacterial infections. People with asthma and other lung diseases
need to cough.
If you have a dry, hacking cough, ask your doctor
about an effective cough suppressant medicine.
Look for suppressant
medicines containing dextromethorphan, such as Robitussin-DM or Vicks Dry
Hacking Cough. Studies show that over-the-counter cough medicines do not work
very well. And some of these medicines can cause problems if you use too much
of them. It is important to use medicines correctly and to keep them out of the
reach of children to prevent accidental use.