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Coughing is a natural reflex that allows our body to clear the airways from irritants such as mucous in order to prevent infection. Nerves in the throat send a message to the brain that something is not right, and the brain then instructs the muscles in the chest wall to contract to help the lungs give a strong push of air to try to expel the irritant.



The most common cause of coughing is a respiratory illness such as a cold, but may also be dust, pollen, chemicals or food. A cough that is persistent over a long period of time, more than eight weeks, could indicate something more serious such as asthma.



Different types of cough can indicate different problems. Most of the time, coughing is not cause for concern. If symptoms worsen or are persistent, it is best to see your health care professional.


Some examples of this may be:

  • a “barking” type cough can indicate croup, due to a virus,
  • a “whooping” cough can indicate a pertussis infection, caused by a bacteria, or
  • a wheezing sound when exhaling could indicate asthma.
  • Prolonged coughing can be exhausting and may result in sleeplessness, headaches and occasionally incontinence.



Your doctor will be able to listen to the cough and advise on the best treatment option. It is important to note that cough medicines should not be used in children under the age of six. For children over the age of six, cough medicine should only be used under the supervision of your health care professional.


Some ways to ease a cough at home include:

  • drinking warm water with a teaspoon of honey to soothe the throat and thin mucous,
  • using a humidifier in your bedroom,
  • sitting in a steam filled room such as the bathroom with a hot shower running, and
  • avoiding any irritants such as cigarette smoke.



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.