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Coughs Overview

A cough is an action the body takes to get rid of substances that are irritating to the air passages, which carry the air a person breathes in from the nose and mouth to the lungs. A cough occurs when cells along the air passages get irritated and trigger a chain of events. The result is air in the lungs is forced out under high pressure. A person can choose to cough (a voluntary process), or the body may cough on its own (an involuntary process).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/7/2014
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Coughs - Treatment

What treatment has been effective for your cough?

Relieving a Cough

Coughing is your body's way of getting foreign substances and mucus out of your lungs and upper airway passages. Coughs are often useful, and you should not try to eliminate them. Sometimes, though, coughs are severe enough to make breathing difficult, cause vomiting, or prevent rest. Home treatment can help you feel more comfortable when you have a cough.

  • Drink more fluids. Water helps loosen mucus and soothe an irritated throat. Dry, hacking coughs respond to honey in hot water, tea, or lemon juice. Do not give honey to children younger than 1 year of age.
  • Elevate your head with extra pillows at night to ease a dry cough.
  • Try a cough drop to soothe an irritated throat. Expensive medicine-flavored cough drops are not any better than inexpensive candy-flavored ones or hard candy. Most cough drops have no effect on the cough-producing mechanism.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid exposure to inhaled irritants, such as smoke, dust, or other pollutants, or wear a face mask that is appropriate for the exposure. There are many kinds of face masks. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out which types will give you the most benefit.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Chronic Cough »

The management of chronic cough presents a challenge for the clinician.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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