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Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"How should I treat my cough?"

ZocdocAnswersHow should I treat my cough?

Question

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.

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