Natural Home Remedies for Cough: Doctor's Pick

Written by Dr Nelson Lau, MBBS FRACGP, GP & Digital Health Specialist

Causes of Cough

Before we dive into home remedies for cough, it’s important to understand what might be causing your cough. After all, different culprits sometimes need different solutions and while home remedies may be effective in many cases, not all types of coughs will respond to home remedies:

  • The Common Cold: This is the classic culprit and your cough is likely just one part of a whole collection of cold symptoms.
  • Flu (Influenza): Aches, fever, and chills often accompany a flu cough, which tends to be a dry one.
  • Allergies: Itchy eyes, and runny nose can also signal that your cough could be caused by airborne irritants like pollen or dust.
  • Postnasal Drip: If mucous from your nose feels like it’s trickling down your throat, that’s very likely to be postnasal drip, a frequent trigger of coughs.
  • Irritants: Smoke, pollution, and strong scents can all irritate your airways and cause coughing.
  • Asthma: Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition, is characterised by inflammation and narrowing of the airways. This inflammation leads to symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing, particularly at night or early in the morning. A cough from asthma typically doesn’t produce phlegm and can be accompanied by other asthma symptoms. If you suspect asthma, it’s crucial to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and management as home remedies will not be effective.
  • Less Common (but important): Sometimes, persistent coughing signals conditions like asthma or acid reflux. If your cough lingers, it’s always best to check with your doctor.
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Natural Home Remedies for Cough

Let’s look at some soothing remedies your kitchen cupboards likely already hold:

1. Honey

This golden nectar isn’t just tasty; it offers proven cough relief. Honey coats your throat, easing irritation and studies suggest it might have a suppressant effect against coughs in both adults and children.

Ways to Take It: A spoonful before bed, stirred into warm tea or even drizzled onto a slice of lemon or toast. Opt for raw, local honey for its potential added benefits.

2. Hot Fluids

Warm drinks also help to soothe the irritation of your sore throat. The warmth itself can help loosen stubborn mucus, offering temporary relief.

Options: Herbal teas (chamomile, ginger, peppermint), warm water with lemon, or even clear broths are all great choices.

Tip: You can also add a touch of honey for added soothing power while sipping your warm beverage.

3. Saltwater Gargle

Mix a quarter teaspoon of salt in warm water and gargle. Salt helps to decrease inflammation and clear out irritants.

4. Humidifiers

Dry air aggravates coughs. If your room feels particularly dry, a humidifier adds moisture to the air, making it easier for you to breathe.

5. Propping Up

Elevating your head with extra pillows at night can also help ease coughs triggered by postnasal drip.

What to Avoid When You Have a Cough?

Sometimes, what you don’t do can be just as important for healing. Here’s what to get rid of to help your cough fade faster:

  • Smoking: If you smoke, now’s the perfect time to take a break. Smoking seriously worsens coughs and compromises your immune system.
  • Irritants: Steer clear of anything triggering – perfume, cleaning products, or air pollution.
  • Dairy: While the jury’s still out, some people find dairy thickens mucus, worsening their cough. Experiment and see if it makes a difference for you.

When to Consult a Doctor?

Most coughs clear up on their own with a little self-care. However, don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you notice:

  • Your cough lasting over three weeks
  • Fever that won’t break
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood or discoloured mucous
  • Chest pain

Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it’s better to be checked out by your doctor.

Can Telehealth Doctors Help with Coughing?

Telehealth connects you virtually with online doctors in Australia who can diagnose common cough causes, prescribe medications if needed, and help determine if an in-person examination is necessary. This convenient option saves time and reduces potential exposure to other illnesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a natural cough suppressant?

Honey has long been widely used as a natural cough suppressant, with some scientific backing for its soothing properties. Its thick viscosity coats the throat, reducing irritation and coughing frequency, especially before bedtime. Other natural cough suppressants include ginger, renowned for its anti-inflammatory power, and peppermint, whose menthol content can help to relax your throat muscles.

How do you get rid of a cough fast?

Achieving swift cough relief can be challenging, but a multi-pronged approach often expedites recovery. Prioritising rest, staying well-hydrated with warm fluids, and employing natural remedies like honey and steam inhalation can provide respite. Avoiding irritants like smoke and strong odours is also crucial to prevent further cough aggravation.

What helps a cough at night?

Elevating the head with extra pillows can prevent mucous from pooling in the throat, which often triggers nighttime coughing fits. A humidifier in the bedroom helps maintain a moist environment, reducing throat dryness and irritation. For those with nasal congestion, a saline (salt water) rinse before bed can clear nasal passages, promoting easier breathing.

Does anything really stop a cough?

While over-the-counter medications offer temporary relief, they don’t address the root cause of a cough. Long-term cough cessation often requires identifying and treating the underlying trigger, whether it’s an allergy, infection, asthma, or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Persistent coughs unresponsive to simple remedies require a professional medical evaluation.

How much honey should I take for a cough?

For adults, a tablespoon of honey can be consumed up to three times daily, with a focus on the pre-bedtime dose to ease nighttime coughing. Children over one year old can benefit from a teaspoon of honey at similar intervals. However, honey should be avoided in infants under one due to the serious risk of infant botulism.

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This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.