How you can treat a cough yourself
Most coughs go away on their own within 3 weeks. There’s usually no need to see a GP.
- drink plenty of fluids
- drink hot lemon with honey (not suitable for babies)
Hot lemon with honey has a similar effect as cough medicines.
How to make hot lemon with honey at home
A pharmacist can help with a cough
Speak to your pharmacist if you have a cough. They can give you advice or suggest treatments to help you cough less, like cough syrups and lozenges. These won’t get rid of the cough.
Some cough medicines shouldn’t be given to children under 12.
See a GP if:
- you’ve had a cough for more than 3 weeks (persistent cough)
- your cough is very bad or quickly gets worse, for example – you have a hacking cough or can’t stop coughing
- you have chest pain
- you’re losing weight for no reason
- the side of your neck feels swollen and painful (swollen glands)
- you find it hard to breathe
- you have a weakened immune system, for example because of chemotherapy or diabetes
See a GP urgently if you’re coughing up blood.
What happens at your appointment
To find out what’s causing your cough your GP might:
- take a sample of any mucus you might be coughing up
- order an X-ray, allergy test, or test to see how well your lungs work
- refer you to hospital to see a specialist, but this is very rare
What causes coughs
Most coughs are caused by cold or flu.
Other causes include:
- heartburn (acid reflux)
- allergies – for example, hay fever
- infections like bronchitis
- mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose
A cough is very rarely a sign of something serious like lung cancer.
Check if you have a cold
Cold symptoms come on gradually and can include:
- blocked or runny nose
- sore throat
- muscle aches
- a raised temperature
- pressure in your ears and face
- loss of taste and smell
The symptoms are the same in adults and children. Sometimes, symptoms last longer in children.
Telling the difference between cold and flu
How you can treat a cold yourself
To help you get better more quickly:
A pharmacist can help with cold medicines
You can buy cough and cold medicines from pharmacies or supermarkets. A pharmacist can advise you on the best medicine.
- relieve a blocked nose with decongestant sprays or tablets
- ease aches or lower a temperature with painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
Be careful not to use cough and cold medicines if you’re taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose.
Some are not suitable for children, babies and pregnant women.
There’s little evidence that supplements (such as vitamin c, zinc, echinacea or garlic) prevent colds or speed up recovery.
See a GP if:
- your symptoms don’t improve after three weeks
- your symptoms get suddenly worse
- your temperature is very high or you feel hot and shivery
- you’re concerned about your child’s symptoms
- you’re finding it hard to breathe or develop chest pain
- you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes, or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
- you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you’re having chemotherapy
GPs don’t recommend antibiotics for colds because they won’t relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.
Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and colds are caused by viruses.
How to avoid spreading a cold
Colds are caused by viruses and easily spread to other people. You’re infectious until all your symptoms have gone. This usually takes a week or two.
Colds are spread by germs from coughs and sneezes which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
To reduce the risk of spreading a cold:
- wash your hands often with warm water and soap
- use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
- bin used tissues as quickly as possible
How to prevent catching a cold
A person with a cold can start spreading it from a few days before their symptoms begin until the symptoms have finished. The best ways to avoid catching a cold are:
- washing your hands with warm water and soap
- not sharing towels or household items (like cups) with someone who has a cold
- not touching your eyes or nose in case you’ve come into contact with the virus – it can infect the body this way
- staying fit and healthy
The flu vaccine helps prevent the flu but not colds.
Source – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cough/