Cough (adults)

A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus and irritants such as dust or smoke; it’s rarely a sign of anything serious.

A “dry cough” means it’s tickly and doesn’t produce any phlegm (thick mucus). A “chesty cough” means phlegm is produced to help clear your airways.

Self Care Techniques

Most coughs clear up within three weeks and don’t require any treatment.

Some things you can try to help ease your cough are:

  • Drink lots of water (6-8 glasses a day)
  • Drink honey and lemon ( Lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey in hot water)
  • Suck lozenges or hard boiled sweets
  • Stop smoking
  • Try an over-the-counter cough mixture
  • Take Paracetamol to help relieve symptoms

Visit your Pharmacist

Your local Pharmacy can recommend treatments to help ease your cough.

When to see your GP

There’s usually no need to see your GP if you have a mild cough for a week or two.

However, you should seek medical advice if:

  • you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks
  • your cough is particularly severe or is getting worse
  • you cough up blood or experience shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or chest pain
  • you have any other worrying symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, a persistent change in your voice, or lumps or swellings in your neck
  • If your GP is unsure what’s causing your cough, they may refer you to a hospital specialist for an assessment. They may also request some tests, such as a chest X-ray, allergy tests, breathing tests, and an analysis of a sample of your phlegm to check for infection.