Occasional coughing is normal; it's your body's way of clearing your throat of phlegm or other irritants. A persistent cough, on the other hand, is usually symptomatic of allergies, or a bacterial or viral infection. If you are experiencing any fever, you should see your doctor as you may be suffering from an infection that requires antibiotics.
However, if your cough is mild you can try treating it yourself. Over-the counter medicines are readily available, but there are also plenty of natural, home remedies that you can try if you prefer to avoid chemicals where possible. Here are our top six, which can work for both a dry or a chesty cough.
1) Honey. Delicious honey has been a cough remedy for many years, and it is still our number one treatment. Healthline cites a study which actually showed honey to be more effective in treating a cough than medications containing dextromethorphan! You can simply have a spoonful of honey, or you can mix it with a cup of hot water, or add it to your favourite herbal tea, according to WebMD. A squirt of fresh lemon juice is also helpful for relieving congestion.
2) Licorice tea. Everyday Roots recommends a cup of hot liquorice tea for relief of a cough. Licorice root contains glycyrrhizin, which soothes your throat while loosening and thinning mucus so that you can expel any irritants more easily.
3) Peppermint. The menthol in peppermint soothes the throat and breaks down mucus. You can drop a few fresh mint leaves in hot water (or buy readily available peppermint tea), or you can add a few drops of peppermint oil into a steam bath and inhale the steam. WikiHow has more ways to use peppermint for soothing a cough.
4) Ginger. Ginger is a strong anti-inflammatory and can therefore be effective in soothing the inflammation of the throat. Natural Living Ideas recommends extracting fresh ginger juice, or finely mincing ginger and adding it to a little honey for a DIY cough syrup. The ginger is very spicy so the honey helps it to go down! Alternatively you can slice fresh ginger into boiling water and leave it to steep and cool a little before drinking.
5) Fresh pineapple. Healthline explains that pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that has been found to suppress coughs and loosen muscus in the throat. You can eat fresh pineapple or drink fresh pineapple juice (real, not the fake sugary kind!). It can also relieve sinusitis and other allergy-based sinus issues which contribute to coughs.
6) Salt water gargle. This is a classic home remedy that has many uses. In this case, Everyday Roots explains exactly how the salt water gargle works to clear a cough: "When the concentration of salt is higher outside of the cells in your mucous membranes, water flows out of the cells to balance everything out. When water leaves the cells, swelling goes down, and discomfort is decreased. If you have a cough that happens to come along with inflamed tissue, this is a good route to take. It can also help dislodge any phlegm that’s hanging out and allow you to expel it easily." Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a cup of hot water, then gargle for 15 seconds. Easy!
As always, if your symptoms increase or become serious you should consult your doctor. However, before your cough gets to that point, nip it in the bud with these great natural remedies. We'd love to hear how you soothe your cough at home - tell us in the comments!