1. A cough is only a symptom, not the problem.
  2. Coughing clears the lungs and airways.

Symptoms

There are three kinds of coughs:

  • Productive - This brings up mucus of phlegm
  • Nonproductive - This is a dry cough
  • Reflex - This is a cough that comes from a problem somewhere else, like the ear or stomach

Causes

Common causes of coughing are:

  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Dry Air
  • Infections. Examples are bronchitis, colds, and the flu
  • Allergies and postnasal drip
  • Asthma
  • Acid reflux from the stomach that comes with heartburn
  • Something lodged in your windpipe
  • Symptom of medical conditions. Example: tuberculosis

Prevention

  • Avoid close contact with anyone with upper-respiratory illnesses
  • Wash hands regularly
  • Don't share drinking glasses or eating utensils
  • Replace your toothbrush after an illness and/or every two months

Self-care

For coughs that bring up mucus:

  • Don't smoke; avoid secondhand smoke
  • Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, hot tea, and fruit juices. These help loosen mucus and soothe a sore throat.
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer in your room
  • Take a shower. The steam can thin the mucus
  • Take an over-the-counter expectorant or cough medicine containing guaifenesin

For coughs that are dry:

  • Drink liquids. Drink tea with lemon and honey
  • Suck on cough drops or hard candy
  • Take an over-the-counter cough medicine that contains dextromenthorphan as directed

Treatment

Diagnostic tests may include a chest x-ray. Antibiotics may be prescribed to fight an infection. If they are prescribed, be sure to take the entire antibiotic you are given.