When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Call your doctor if your cough doesn't go away after several weeks or if you or your child is:

  • Coughing up thick, greenish-yellow phlegm
  • Wheezing
  • Experiencing a fever more than 100 F (38 C)
  • Experiencing shortness of breath

Seek emergency care if you or your child is:

  • Choking
  • Having difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Coughing up bloody or pink-tinged phlegm

Self-care measures

Cough medicines usually are used only when the cause of the cough is unknown and the cough causes a lot of discomfort. If you use cough medicine, be sure to follow the dosing instructions.

Don't give children under age 4 over-the-counter cough medicine without first checking with your child's doctor.

To ease your cough, try these tips:

  • Suck cough drops or hard candies. They may ease a dry cough and soothe an irritated throat. Don't give them to a child under age 6, however, because of the risk of choking.
  • Take honey. A teaspoon of honey can help loosen a cough. Don't give to children younger than 1 year old.
  • Moisturize the air. Use a vaporizer or take a steamy shower.
  • Drink fluids. Liquid helps thin the mucus in your throat. Warm liquids, such as broth tea or lemon juice, can soothe your throat.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke. Smoking or breathing secondhand smoke can make your cough worse.
Jan. 11, 2018