Treating a cough

The cough is a reflex which helps us clear the airways and lungs of excess mucous. The cough is therefore a defense mechanism for the lungs. It may be chesty, if there is excess mucous, or dry if there is a lack of mucous.


A cough may be caused by anything that irritates the airways, such as the cold, smoke, dust, asthma, acid reflux from the stomach or an infection; colds, throat infections, bronchitis or pneumonia may all be causes of a cough.

Coughs may be acute or chronic, and the causes for them differ. Acute coughs are often caused by an infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. A cough may become chronic if it is caused by a persistant problem such as “chronic bronchitis” in smokers.


Given that the cough is a reflex, no treatment can make it disappear completely. There are several methods that can be used to relieve a cough. Simple methods include drinking water or a hot drink, sucking on a throat lozenge or a herbal sweet.

If this isn’t enough, you can take cough medicine. There are drops, tablets and syrups available. When the cough is caused by a cold, a nasal spray can also be used. If you feel pain or have a fever as well, the doctor may prescribe pain relief medicine such as paracetamol (Dafalgan, Panadol, etc.) or an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (Irfen, Agifor, etc.).


A medical opinion may be necessary if the cough lasts for several weeks or if you have a fever. Some situations mean that you need to see a doctor, such as a cough associated with difficulty breathing, blood in the mucous and weight loss.

For further information

You can find further information about coughs on the pages about a dry cough: the body’s warning sign and myths about the cough on the Planète santé website.


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