Coughing is important to remove mucus or foreign matter from the lungs. But coughing can also be a result of irritated bronchial tubes caused by coughing. Here are tips for helping a cough do its work and clear up as quickly as possible.

There are two main kinds of cough:

  1. Productive cough produces phlegm or mucus. It's important to allow this kind of cough to do the work of keeping your lungs and breathing tubes clear.
  2. Nonproductive cough is a dry cough. No mucus or phlegm comes up. It's typical of the later stages of a cold or after exposure to an irritant, such as dust, smoke or fumes. This type of cough can be from asthma.

What to Do About a Cough

  • Drink plenty of water to help thin and loosen mucus.
  • For dry, hacking coughs, try honey in hot water, tea or lemon juice. But don't give honey to infants under one year of age.
  • Use cough drops or hard candy to soothe and moisten your throat. Most have no major effect on a cough, however.
  • For those persistent coughs that follow a viral illness and seem to get worse at night, raise the head of your bed or use extra pillows.
  • If your cough is nonproductive, use an over-the-counter cough suppressant containing dextromethorphan. Don't try to suppress a productive cough unless it's keeping you from sleeping.
  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom at night with the door closed.
  • For a severe attack of coughing, turn on the shower and breathe the steam.

Call the Doctor If:

  • You cough up blood or mucus that is thick, green or brown.
  • You have wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness or pain in the chest, or difficulty breathing.
  • You've had a productive cough longer than seven to 10 days without improvement.
  • Your cough or other symptoms take a turn for the worse after getting better .
  • You have a persistent or high fever.
  • You're thinking of using any medication-such as cough syrup-for the first time, especially if you have a chronic medical condition.

How to Prevent Chronic Nonproductive Coughs

  • Don't smoke.
  • If you work around smoke, dust, or other pollutants, wear a mask.
  • Make sure youg et eough fliuds every day -- at least eight glasses, not counting milk