ZocdocAnswersHow should I treat my cough?

Question

How should I treat my cough?

I've had a cough for two and a half weeks. I've tried cough syrup and cough drops but they really don't seem to help. I'm also not really coughing anything up. How can I treat my cough so it will go away?

Answer

There are many different causes of cough. The majority of short-lived coughs (lasting less than 3 weeks) are due to upper respiratory infections, which are usually due to viral illnesses. Coughs that last between 3 and 8 weeks are termed intermediate or subacute coughs, and are usually due to either post-nasal drip or a lingering upper respiratory infection. Chronic coughs (lasting more than 8 weeks) are often due to post-nasal drip, medications (such as an ACE inhibitor), asthma or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Unfortunately there are no direct treatments for the viral infections that cause the run-of-the-mill upper respiratory infection associated with cough. Over-the-counter cough medications and throat lozenges can relieve symptoms and help suppress cough but do not target the underlying problem. In the case of post-nasal drip, also known as Upper Airway Cough Syndrome, a person experiences cough due to excessive mucous production by the lining of the nose. In this case, nasal decongestants and/or nasal steroids can often signficantly improve symptoms. To address your cough, I recommend that you seek out the advice of your primary care physician, who can help you come to an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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