A cough is a reflex action to clear an irritant from your airways.
A dry cough is one that doesn't produce an phlegm or mucus and tickles the throat.
A chesty cough is one that produces phlegm to help clear irritants from your airways.
Most coughs resolve within 3-4 weeks. During that time, it is important to take the following steps:
- Get plenty of rest, if possible, in a room with good ventilation.
- If you have a dry cough drink hot drinks to soothe it.
- Drinking plenty of fluids such as water and juices will ease a chesty cough as they can help dilute mucus making it easier to clear from your airways.
- Steam inhalation are also a good way to loosen phlegm produced during a chesty cough.
- You can also use a cough linctus specially formulated to ease either a dry or a chesty cough.
- Smoke as this will cause increased aggravation of your airways. Areas that are dusty or have high pollution levels can also trigger bouts of coughing.
- Close your windows unless you are in an area where there is polluted air or lots of fumes. Fresh air is good for your immune system.
When to see your GP
- If there is a strong colour or smell to your phlegm. This may be a sign of infection.
- If there is blood is present in the mucus when you cough it up.
- If you are wheezing or suffering from shortness of breath or experiencing pain when breathing or coughing.
- If you suspect you have whooping cough or croup.
- You have recurrent night-time coughing.
- The cough has lasted for more than three weeks.
- You have any recent, unexplained weight loss.
Speak to your Pharmacist and they can help advise what is the most appropriate product to ease your symptoms until you are fully recovered.
Cold and Flu advice
Colds are caused by viral infections and usually resolve within a week or two although sometimes they can take up to three weeks to resolve.
- Antibiotics can’t fight a virus, instead keep warm, get some rest, and allow your body to fight the virus.
- Drinking plenty of fluids keeps you hydrates and soothes cold and flu symptoms.
- Sleeping with your head on a high pillow can help if your nose is blocked at night. You may also find it useful to use steam inhalation to ease congestion. Adding menthol or inhalation oil may help this.
- Remember to use a tissue to catch sneezes and bin it every time to help avoid spreading the virus. Good hand hygiene is important. Remember to wash your hands or use an antibacterial gel where possible.
- Forget to rest. Your body will be using energy to fight the virus so you may feel tired more easily than usual.
- Do anything that will cause further irritation of your airways like smoking or being in areas where there is a lot of dust or fumes.
- Close your windows, fresh air is good for your immune system.
- Drink alcohol as this will cause dehydration which will slow the recovery process. It may also interact with medications that you might be taking to ease your symptoms.
When to see your GP
- If you have difficulty breathing or a stiff neck or a rash seek medical advice straight away.
- Symptoms become worse, continue for more than 14 days or recur after a recent cold you should contact your GP.
- If your temperature is above 38.5C.
- You have persistently painful, swollen glands or difficulty swallowing.
- Symptoms are unusual, this is especially important in children who may not be able to communicate their symptoms to you.
- If you have earache or discharge from your eardrum.
There are a wide range of cough and cold products available and your local pharmacy can advise on what product will best ease your symptoms.
Your local Pharmacist will also know which remedies are safe to take with other medications that you are already prescribed.