Coughing occurs when something irritates your throat, which could be anything from dust to postnasal drip. Coughing, although aggravating, helps clear your lungs and throat. Some coughs, such as those that come from colds and the flu, will disappear eventually. Others, however, may be a sign of a serious medical condition and will need treatment from a medical professional. No matter what the cause of your cough may be, here are some ways to help relieve it.

  1. At-home treatments. This includes drinking plenty of fluids, using a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer, propping your head up on extra pillows while sleeping, and eating a little honey before bedtime (sweet foods can help ease a cough). All of these treatments can help soothe your irritated throat and loosen mucously.
  2. Expectorants and pseudoephedrine. If you’re having difficulty removing mucus, or if the mucus is thick, you’ll need an expectorant. If you’re experiencing postnasal drip that has runny mucous, you’ll need pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) that will help dry it up. If your coughing is accompanied by fever or shortness of breath, call your doctor immediately. Consult with him or her before using cough medicine for emphysema, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, or asthma.
  3. Suppressants. When dust or smoke gets into our lungs, it can create the urge to cough. Suppressants can help relieve this feeling, as well as help you get a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by coughing. These come in different forms, including cough drops and hard candy, and can ease the feeling of a tickle in your throat.
  4. Antibiotics. While they won’t stop a cough, they can help kill the bacteria causing the coughing. If you’re still coughing after one week, visit your doctor to make sure a bacterial illness isn’t present, such as a sinus infection or pneumonia. If so, you will need an antibiotic.
  5. Antihistamines. These can help with coughs triggered by allergies. There are non-drowsy ones available, should you need to take them during the day. If you notice wheezing, however, visit your doctor, as it’s possible you may have asthma.