Living With Cough
If you have a cough, you can take steps to recover from the condition that's causing the cough. You also can take steps to relieve your cough. Ongoing care and lifestyle changes can help you.
Follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you for treating the cause of your cough. Take all medicines as your doctor prescribes. If you're using antibiotics, continue to take the medicine until it's all gone. You may start to feel better before you finish the medicine, but you should continue to take it.
Ask your doctor about ways to relieve your cough. He or she may recommend cough medicines. These medicines usually are used only when the cause of a cough is unknown and the cough is causing a lot of discomfort.
A cool-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer may help relieve an irritated throat and loosen mucus. Getting enough fluids (for example, water, soup, or juice) may have the same effect. Ask your doctor about how much fluid you need.
Your doctor will let you know when to schedule follow-up care.
If you smoke, quit. Ask your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking. The Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart" booklet have more information about how to quit smoking.
Try to avoid irritants and allergens that make you cough. Examples of irritants include cigarette smoke, air pollution, paint fumes, and scented products like perfumes or air fresheners. Examples of allergens include dust, animal dander, mold, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers.
Follow a healthy diet and be as physically active as you can. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet also is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar.
For more information about following a healthy diet, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Aim for a Healthy Weight Web site, "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart," and "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH." All of these resources include general advice about healthy eating.
Who Is At Risk for Cough?
People at risk for cough include those who:
- Are exposed to things that irritate their airways (called irritants) or things that they're allergic to (called allergens). Examples of irritants are cigarette smoke, air pollution, paint fumes, and scented products. Examples of allergens are dust, animal dander, mold, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers.
- Have certain conditions that irritate the lungs, such as asthma, sinus infections, colds, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
- Smoke. Smoking can irritate your lungs and cause coughing. Smoking and/or exposure to secondhand smoke also can lead to medical conditions that can cause a cough.
- Take certain medicines, such as ACE inhibitors and beta blockers. ACE inhibitors are used to treat high blood pressure (HBP). Beta blockers are used to treat HBP, migraine headaches, and glaucoma.
Women are more likely than men to develop a chronic cough.