A chesty cough is when your chest feels heavy, and you find that you are coughing up mucus or phlegm. Often patients find that a chesty cough appears after a sore throat or following a cold, and is often at its worst first thing in the morning.
Both coughs and colds are a result of a viral infection, which means antibiotics are not the suitable course of treatment. Although cough medicines can relieve symptoms and some discomfort, they are not recommended for children who are aged under two years old and should be given cautiously to children older than two.
Treatment Options for Chesty Coughs
You can use over the counter cough medicines which can loosen and break down mucus in the lungs, which makes it easier to cough up any phlegm. Coughing up the mucus can be beneficial, and cough suppressants should ideally be avoided.
The first choice of treatment should be guaiphenesin or bromhexine, however, do remember that although these medicines will relieve cough symptoms, they will not cure the underlying medical condition which is causing you to cough.
You should also take paracetamol or ibuprofen to manage any accompanying pain or fever. Most cough syrups work by simply coating the throat, which can relieve feelings of irritation and discomfort. Other cough medicines contain antihistamines. Although these can dry up runny noses and bring some minor relief to coughing, they do make it harder to remove mucus from the lungs and can make you feel sleepy.
When treating a cough at home, the best course of action is to get plenty of bed rest, stay warm, and to drink lots of fluids. To ease symptoms, you can try gargling with salt water for one minute three times a day. Many people find that taking a hot shower or drinking warm drinks such as tea eases a cough and can break down mucus, which makes it easier to cough up.
To avoid spreading coughs and colds, cover your mouth whenever you cough and wash your hands afterwards. Patients are also advised to minimise physical contact, such as shaking hands with others, to minimise the spread of the virus.
When To See A Doctor About Your Chesty Cough
Sometimes a chesty cough is more complicated than a seasonal viral infection; they can actually be indicators of an underlying problem such as asthma, heart failure or chronic bronchitis. If you find your cough has not improved after several days, there is an increased chance that there is a more serious underlying medical cause. This is especially true in patients who smoke, suffer from a weakened immune system, or are aged, as they are more prone to serious complications which can include bronchitis or pneumonia.
You should make an appointment with your doctor or see your local pharmacist if the mucus you are coughing up contains blood or is dark green. Medical attention is also recommended for patients who are under two years old, or if you are suffering from other symptoms such as fever, chest pain, difficulty breathing, weight loss, or headaches.
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Medical information published on this website is of a general nature only and not intended to be a substitute for informed healthcare professional advice or clinical care. If you have specific healthcare concerns or issues you should consult with a qualified health care professional such as your own GP.