A cough can be voluntary or involuntary, and it is the body’s way to help clear the airways of irritants and to prevent infection. Cough is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
The best medicine or treatment for cough depends on the cause and whether the cough is acute or chronic.
Medicines used to treat cough may include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines containing guaifenesin and/or dextromethorphan (these can be found as cough syrups and in tablet form)
- Antibiotics for infection caused by bacteria such as bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis
- Inhaled bronchodilators and inhaled steroids to treat asthma and COPD
- Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or nasal inhalers like ipratropium bromide (Atrovent) for postnasal drip
- Famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac) omeprazole (Prilosec, Prilosec OTC), lansoprazole (Prevacid, Prevacid 24-Hour), rabeprazole (Aciphex), pantoprazole (Protonix), esomeprazole (Nexium) to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Pain relievers (analgesics) to treat the pain caused by coughing
- If cough is caused by an ACE inhibitor, your doctor may switch your medicine
- Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor
If the cough is not serious, home remedies that may help relieve symptoms and get rid of a cough faster include:
- Staying hydrated
- Inhaling steam in a shower or using a humidifier
- Gargling with warm saltwater
- Cough lozenges (lozenges are not recommended for young children; they can be a choking hazard)
- Don’t smoke
- Avoiding allergens such as pollen, dust, animals, or mold
- Avoiding inhaled irritants such as smoke, dust, and other pollutants
- For GERD: Avoiding foods that increase reflux, avoiding meals before lying down, elevating the head while sleeping
What Are Symptoms of Cough?
A cough may be accompanied by other cold symptoms, including:
What Causes Cough?
Causes of cough include:
- Most common cause of chronic cough
- Postnasal drip
- Lung conditions
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Certain medications such as ACE inhibitors
- Inhalation of foreign objects into the lungs (usually in children)
- Congestive heart failure
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