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Beating the Cough: Effective Home Remedies for Cough

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Ruby Fernandez · Updated Dec 12, 2022

Beating the Cough: Effective Home Remedies for Cough

We’ve all had cough before, as it is a symptom of many infectious diseases such as the common cold, and many more. At times, it can be a sign of a more serious illness. But more often than not, we dismiss it as “just a cough.” Despite being a common symptom for everything from a sore throat to bronchitis, a cough should not be ignored, especially for cases when your cough persists for quite a long time. That’s when you consult a doctor. But for mild cases, it can be helpful to know effective home remedies for cough.

A cough is a reflex (like blinking or sneezing) that propels air out of your respiratory tract to get rid of irritants. According to research, cough acts as the body’s natural respiratory defense system. If an irritant enters the body, it sends a stimulus to various nerve endings. This interaction is then processed by the brainstem, initiating a cough.

Types of Cough

An acute cough can last for a few days or up to two weeks. As treatment is often not required, it is good to know effective home remedies for cough to relieve any feelings of discomfort. But if the cough persists for more than three weeks, it is best to consult your doctor as it may need medical attention.  

Here’s all you need to know about the four types of cough:

1. Wet Cough

When fluid is blocking the airways, a wet cough occurs. Known as a productive cough, it produces an unusual amount of phlegm or mucus. At times, it may also cause breathing problems. 

A wet cough starts when viruses (usually cold or flu viruses) or bacteria cause infection in the respiratory system. As a response, our body starts producing mucus to keep the airway lining moist, as well as to protect the lungs from microbes. It also repels irritants to discourage infection. 

When someone suffers from a wet cough, “expectoration” or sputum production occurs.

If a wet cough continues for more than three weeks, it’s best to consult a doctor. The doctor will check if the cough is caused by more serious illnesses such as:

2. Dry Cough 

A dry cough is also called a non-productive cough due to the absence of mucus or phlegm. Dry coughing can be triggered by air contaminants such as smoke and dust that irritate the throat. 

A dry cough might go away on its own after a few days. In cases where it does not get better within three weeks, you may have an acute dry cough, which usually comes with a cold. In the event that it worsens and lasts for more than eight weeks, it is a chronic dry cough and might be a sign of a more serious condition. This is often caused by smoking, asthma or prolonged exposure to irritants.

At times, a dry cough is a symptom of a more serious illness. In such cases, a dry cough may be caused by any of the following:

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor if you have a chronic dry cough.

3. Croup Cough 

A barky cough produces a tight, low-pitched barking sound, commonly described as a barking seal. Such coughs are caused by a virus, most often by a parainfluenza virus, that lodge in the vocal cords and trachea. Such infection may cause swelling.

 Younger children are most susceptible to croup because their airways are small, making it hard to breathe. 

4. Paroxysmal Cough

A paroxysmal cough is uncontrollable coughing and is usually violent. This type of cough is exhausting and painful. Patients may struggle to breathe and may even vomit.

The most common cause of paroxysmal cough is Pertussis or whooping cough. It is a transmissible disease caused by bacteria called B. pertussis. It infiltrates the bronchi and bronchioles causing soreness and tightness in the airways, leading to shortness of breath and a severe cough that makes a distinctive “whooping” sound. For this reason, whooping cough needs special medical assistance as it can spread from person to person if not treated right away. 

Other diseases that may cause this type of cough include:

  • Asthma
  • Choking
  • COPD
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis

Cough Triggers

Coughing can be stimulated by different causes. While most of the cases are temporary, other cases may be life-long. Knowing cough triggers is the first step for figuring out which home remedies for cough will be effective for you.

Cough triggers include:

  • Infection (viruses and bacteria)

A respiratory tract infection, such as the cold or the flu, is the most common cause of coughs. Infection from a flu or cold virus typically lasts a  few days up to a week. On the other hand, bacterial infections tend to stay longer and may require medication. 

  • Asthma and allergy

Inhaling particles that may trigger asthma and allergy may cause coughing. It is the way our body responds as it try to get rid of whatever is inside our system to prevent further harm.

But this response from our body is not always beneficial. Especially in allergy. In some cases, it can trigger a more troublesome reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. Hence asthma or allergy management is important.

As a starter, the home remedy for cough triggered by asthma and allergy involves removing allergens from your environment as well as in your diet.

  • Irritants

You may not have asthma or allergies, but inhaling certain substances can still make you cough. These include cigarette smoke or strong scents. A change of weather may also be an irritant.

  • Acid Reflux (GERD)

Acid coming up the throat can irritate the air passages and cause a cough.

  • Postnasal drip

Having colds means excess mucus from your sinus drips down your throat and triggers coughing.

Cough Treatment: Home Remedies for Cough

Treating cough is the best way to avoid making it worse. Treatments may vary according to the exact cause. 

Medication provided by your physician is most useful for curing the illness. But if the cough is not serious, there are also other ways to ease your coughing problem aside from medications. Here are some effective home remedies for cough:

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Stack pillows under your head when sleeping. This can be effective if you are suffering from postnasal drip or GERD.
  • Take cough drops.
  • Gargle with warm salt water concoction or with oral antiseptic.
  • Avoid cough triggers as much as possible.
  • Breathe in steam.
  • Put honey and ginger in your tea.
  • Use decongestant to unclog sinuses.
  • Take vitamins regularly, as these can help to strengthen your immune system.

Key Takeaway

Cough is a common ailment that people frequently catch. Hence, you must be aware of its underlying causes, so that you may know what action to perform. In mild cases, you may look into effective home remedies for cough. But remember to seek medical attention when needed.

Learn more about Infectious Diseases here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Ruby Fernandez · Updated Dec 12, 2022

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