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A nagging cough can be embarrassing and inconvenient. Over-the-counter cough suppressants and cough drops only temporarily reduce the symptoms, but do little to deal with the infection, irritation, or a buildup of phlegm in the respiratory tract that may be causing the cough. To effectively soothe your symptoms while stopping the cough, follow a few simple steps.
Hydrate your body. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to loosen any phlegm or mucus you may have in your chest. If your cough is due to illness such as a cold or the flu, staying hydrated is on of the best ways to reduce its duration. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Try adding lemon or lime juice for flavor.
Moisten your environment. Dry air can contribute to itchy throat and dry coughing, so try using a humidifier or vaporizer to moisten the atmosphere in your home. The warm, moist air will help loosen congestion and soothe and open the airways. Adding essential oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint can speed up the process of eliminating excess mucus while stimulating the lungs and clearing your nasal passages. If you don't own a humidifier, try draping a towel over your head while you carefully lean over a pot of boiling water. Slowly breathe in the steam for a few minutes. Repeat several times throughout the day.
Try honey. In one study involving children age 2 and older with upper respiratory infections, two teaspoons of honey were given to the participants before bed. Researchers determined that the honey was as effective as over-the-counter cough suppressants at reduce nighttime coughing and improving sleep quality. James M. Steckelberg, M.D., Mayo Clinic internist, recommends drinking tea or warm water mixed with honey as a good way to soothe a sore throat and suppress a nagging cough. Never give honey to children younger than age 1, due to the risk of infant botulism.
Avoid airborne irritants. Chemicals from household cleaners or air fresheners can irritate the lining of the throat, exacerbating a cough and causing irritation to the eyes, throat and mouth. When battling a cough, avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals. Stop smoking if you can and avoid situations in which you may be exposed to secondhand smoke.
See a doctor right away if: You're still coughing after a few days. You cough up blood Your mucus is yellow, brown or green. This could be a symptom of an infection. You experience sharp chest pains when you cough.