What is a cough?
A cough is a reflex action to clear the airways. The most common are dry and wet coughs.
What are the symptoms?
Most coughs will be alongside other symptoms, you might have:
- A runny or stuffy nose
- A feeling of liquid running down the back of your throat (postnasal drip)
- Frequent throat clearing and sore throat
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth
How long could it last?
Most adults recover from a cough within 21 days. If symptoms last longer than they normally would, or you are worried about a young child or elderly relative, speak to your local pharmacist for advice.
When should I visit my GP practice?
In most cases you do not need to see a GP with a cough and it will clear on it’s own but you should book an appointment if:
- you’ve had a cough for more than 3 weeks (persistent cough)
- your cough is very bad or quickly gets worse
- you feel very unwell
- you have chest pain
- you’re losing weight for no reason
- the side of your neck feels swollen and painful (swollen glands)
- you find it hard to breathe
- you have a weakened immune system – for example, because of chemotherapy or diabetes
See a GP urgently if you’re coughing up blood.
More information can be found here: NHS – Cough
Do I need antibiotics?
Antibiotics are not normally prescribed for coughs as they usually will not relieve your symptoms or speed up recovery. A healthcare professional will only prescribe them if they feel you need them.
What treatment do I need?
Medicines will not stop your cough but they can help you to cough less. If you have a cough, you can ask a pharmacist about:
- cough syrup
- cough medicine (some cough medicines should not be given to children under 12)
- cough sweets
You can also try:
If you are ever worried that your symptoms might be something more severe then you can visit 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111.