A persistent cough is painful and frustrating. It can be caused by everything from a dry throat to sinus drainage to asthma. The key to combating your cough quickly is selecting the right solution for your type of cough.
Method One of Three:
Getting Hydrated Edit
Reach for fluids. As with any illness, staying hydrated is your first line of defense against coughing. If your cough stems from a dry throat, a little hydration might be all you need. Even if your cough is caused by something else, drinking plenty of fluids is never a bad idea. If your throat is raw or irritated from coughing, be sure to avoid beverages that might irritate it further, such as acidic juices like orange juice.Be careful with dairy, too. While the notion that milk makes more mucus is a myth, milk — particularly whole milk — might coat your throat and make you feel as though you have more phlegm. On the other hand, if your cough is caused by irritation or dryness, cold dairy products might be soothing.When in doubt, always choose water.
Make the fluids warm. For certain coughs, such as ones caused by congestion or sinus drainage, warm liquids can be even more effective than cold or room temperature ones.Whether it’s the perennial favorite of herbal tea with honey or just hot water with lemon, “[a]ny warm liquid can help break up mucus in your airways,” according to the American Lung Association’s chief medical officer.
Try saltwater. Particularly in cases of cold- or flu-related coughs, salt water is your friend.Either gargling with salt water or using a saline-based nasal spray can help kill the viruses or bacteria causing the postnasal drip that’s making you cough along with giving some short-term relief by flushing mucus out of your throat.
Consider steam — in some cases.Conventional wisdom often dictates that steam from a shower or a humidifier can help combat a cough; however, that’s only the case if your cough is due to dry air.If you’re coughing because of congestion, asthma, dust mites, or mold, among other causes, moist air could actually make your cough worse.
Method Two of Three:
Changing Your EnvironmentEdit
Stay upright. Being horizontal can cause mucus to drain into your throat.When sleeping with a cough, for example, you should prop up your head with pillows to prevent sinus drainage from pooling in your throat, causing you to cough.
Keep the air clean. Stay away from dirty air, including cigarette smoke. Particulates in the air could either be the source of your cough or worsen one that has other causes.Strong fragrances, such as perfumes, can cause some people to cough, even if they’re not irritating to others.
Keep the air still. Avoid wind, ceiling fans, heaters, and air conditioners, because moving air can make coughs worse. Many cough sufferers believe that blowing air makes their cough worse, either by further drying their airways or by producing additional tickling sensations likely to trigger a cough.
Try breathing exercises. While most breathing exercises are aimed at those with chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, they can be used by anyone struggling with a cough.You can try “controlled coughing” or “pursed lip breathing,” among other techniques. In pursed lip breathing, for example, you begin by taking a deep breath through your nose and counting to two. Then, while pursing your lips as if you’re about to whistle, you slowly exhale to the count of four.
Method Three of Three:
Taking the Next StepsEdit
Reach for the medicine. If your cough persists, consider trying anti-cough medicines.Cough medicines usually combine two ingredients: an expectorant, which loosens mucus, and a suppressant, which blocks the cough reflex. Check the labels to pick the one that’s best for your cough.Your doctor may be able to prescribe a cough syrup containing codeine, which can be a very effective cough suppressant. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions exactly as outlined by your doctor, as codeine has the potential to become habit-forming.
Sooth your throat. Consider sucking on throat lozenges, eating frozen treats (such as popsicles), or gargling with salt water to sooth your throat if your cough has inflamed it. Many cough medicines contain a mild anesthetic to decrease the cough reflex. Likewise, cold items, such as popsicles, are thought to work by temporarily numbing the throat.
Try menthol products. Whether in the form of lozenges, ointments, or vapors, menthol has been shown to alleviate coughing.  Menthol raises the “cough threshold,” which that in increases the severity of sensations necessary to trigger a cough.
Know when to see the doctor. If your cough is accompanied by shortness of breath, bloody mucus, severe pain, or a fever above 100.4°F (38°C) among other severe symptoms, consider seeing a doctor.
Reader Success Stories
Dec 3, 2017
“I did try the idea of lifting up the end of the mattress. It does seem to make a small difference. Other ideas that seem to help are hot drinks and even a hot water bottle over my chest – or indeed, a soak in a hot bath. Cough medicines don’t seem to do much, but menthol lozenges do help. Codeine/Paracetomol has a good effect, but used sparingly, otherwise the muck in my chest seems to get worse. Off to the doc tomorrow, had it before and antibiotics do work for it in a few days.”…” more
Jun 22, 2016
“I just learned a lot in this article, so it really helped me out. I have also already been doing a lot of the things I saw here, like using my nasal meds, taking cough drops, and drinking hot water, so it’s good to know I’m doing things right. Thanks! :)”…” more
Jan 19, 2017
“Old fashioned remedies such as honey and lemon hot drink helped me a good deal. I also carry out the breathing exercises, which I do very easily now that I have learned to carry this out correctly. Drinking cold drinks, mainly water, is really good.”…” more
“Helped some ways more than others. If you have a bad cough and don’t know what to do, consider following the steps explained, but look closely at shutting the fan off, sitting upright, and drinking hot liquids.”…” more
“I think if you stay away from smoke and inhale are through your nose, it really helps. Take 2 to 3 hot showers a day, and drink hot water with cinnamon, lemon and honey in it. You will be better in a day or two.”…” more
“I got more tips to cure my father’s coughing and make him well again. I am really glad. Thank you, wikiHow, you help me in many ways. I need wikiHow to make me stronger and make my life better.”…” more
“My husband has coughed for 8 days. He can’t sleep at night. Today I read this article and gave him steam, then a herbal tea with honey ginger tulsi. He is sleeping now. “…” more
“Lemon and warm water with honey worked. Also lozenges and getting a lot of water helps a lot. It’s soon gonna be my birthday and I’m sick, but this is helping. Thank you!”…” more
Mar 20, 2016
“My throat was dry and I kept coughing to clear it. I tried eating some ice cream to soothe my throat, and it felt better and I stopped coughing. Thanks for the help.”…” more
Dec 21, 2016
“All the articles mentioned were really very helpful, and it cured my throat within 3 days. I was really satisfied, and suggested it to my family and friends.”…” more
Jul 28, 2016
“The symptoms you highlighted in the case are very similar to my wife’s case. I also referred her to read to article. I am very thankful to this platform.”…”more
“Step by Step information, very helpful. Thank you! Hope we could have a way to talk to a Doctor or practitioner. Thank you for the info! :-)”…” more
“Warm tea with honey, vapor rub on my chest and then putting a very small cough drop under my tongue while going to sleep!”…” more
“I’m still very young and some of these things I can’t do, but I have tried cough drops, warm water, and regular water.”…” more
Nov 15, 2016
“I love it. I had a cough and it ended after a month when I saw this exercise. It helped me a lot. Thanks.”
“My cough is still not gone, but hopefully it will go away in a couple days by the help of this article!”
Mar 12, 2017
“I tried most all of the suggested remedies: sitting up, hot tea, steam, and cough syrup.”
“I liked the visuals and the step-by-step pointers. It made me feel cared for. Thanks!”
“Reassured me we were doing the right thing to treat a cough/cold, thank you.”
“Awesome! I recommend this to people who are suffering from a horrible cough!”
“I’m going to proceed with all of the advice to see what works best for me.”
“Elevating my head with pillows, soothing the throat with lozenges helped.”
“The breathing exercises were very helpful and gave some temporary relief.”
“The breathing exercise really helped as well. I love this website! :)”
“Well it helped a lot, it was mostly me not drinking enough fluids.”
“Found it all really helpful! What to drink was a very useful tip.”
Jan 10, 2017
“It helped me with my cough. It’s a really good website, I love it.”
“The tip on staying hydrated and drinking fluids really helped me.”
Dec 25, 2016
“I tried hot water mixed with honey, got relief within 5 minutes.”
“Steaming helps me a lot, I was feeling better after 30 minutes.”
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