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A teaspoon or two of honey may cut mucus production. Honey also kills germs. But remember, it can cause botulism, a rare form of food poisoning, in babies. Never give it to any child younger than 1.

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Hot Drinks

Hot drinks won’t ease a stuffy head, but they can soothe a cough much better than room temperature drinks. Sip on hot tea or water if you’re seeking relief.

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Research shows certain purified compounds inside ginger root can relax the muscles that tighten your airways. You can eat ginger raw, or you can mix ground ginger root with honey and stir into hot tea. 

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Drinking lots of water not only soothes the scratch of a cough and keeps you hydrated, but it also thins the mucus in your throat. You’re less likely to need to clear things out with a cough.

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Breathing in steam may help with coughing because it calms and moisturizes your airways. You can also add essential oils like peppermint to the water for extra comfort.

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Neti Pot

One of the most common reasons for cough is upper airway inflammation. Saline irrigation, or washing out your nasal passages with a saltwater rinse, can keep inflammation down by flushing out irritants and clearing away mucus. You can use a special bulb or a container called a neti pot.

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You can take elderberry extract as a supplement in capsules or a syrup. It may not ease your cough right away, but studies show it can make it go away sooner.

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Menthol, a compound naturally found in peppermint, opens your airways to help you breathe more easily. That means it can also keep coughs at bay. You can find menthol in rubs you spread across your chest, cough drops, and even peppermint tea.

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Gargle Saltwater

A saltwater gargle is usually a sore throat remedy, but it’s worth trying for coughs, too. The extra moisture can thin mucus and help wash out things that irritate your throat, much like a saline rinse does for the nose. Mix 1/4 to 1/2 of salt into 8 ounces of warm water, tip your head back, gargle, and then spit the mixture out.

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Though keeping the air moist can help ward off a dry cough, take extra care with humidifiers. Dust mites are the No. 1 allergen and grow best when conditions are too moist. Mold can also grow inside humidifiers if you don’t keep them clean. Both can make coughs worse instead of better.

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Experts have found that mixing herbs like ivy leaf, marshmallow root, thyme, and aniseed into a syrup can cut the number of days you’ll deal with your cough.

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Cough Drops

Sucking on a cough drop -- or even just a hard candy -- may wet your throat enough that it puts a short-term damper on cough. Your best bet is cough drops with airway-opening menthol.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 07/10/2019 Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on July 10, 2019


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Mayo Clinic: “Honey: An effective cough remedy?” “Chronic cough,” “7 ways to combat coughs and colds.”

Canadian Family Physician: “Honey for treatment of cough in children.”

Urologic Nursing: “Conventional and alternative medical advice for cold and flu prevention: what should be recommended and what should be avoided?”

Rhinology: “The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu.”

American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology: “Effects of Ginger and Its Constituents on Airway Smooth Muscle Relaxation and Calcium Regulation.” “Common colds: Relief for a stuffy nose, cough and sore throat.”

American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy: “Normal saline solution nasal-pharyngeal irrigation improves chronic cough associated with allergic rhinitis.”

Nutrients: “Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Cough Syrup, Cough Drops, Menthol Rub: What’s Best?”

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Humidifiers And Indoor Allergies.”

Complementary Medicine Research: “Open Trial to Assess Aspects of Safety and Efficacy of a Combined Herbal Cough Syrup with Ivy and Thyme.”
Drug Research: “Efficacy and tolerability of a fluid extract combination of thyme herb and ivy leaves and matched placebo in adults suffering from acute bronchitis with productive cough. A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.”

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on July 10, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.