University Health Service (UHS)
Health Promotion Office
Coughing is your body's way of trying to clear the lungs and airways. Coughs may be caused by viral or bacterial infections, allergies, or by irritants, especially cigarettes. It is important to determine if your cough is caused by an infection, an allergy, or an irritant. A fever and thick, colored mucus may be signs of a bacterial infection, which should be treated by your health care provider.
There are two major types of coughs:
- Productive: This type of cough brings up mucus or phlegm.
- Nonproductive: A nonproductive cough is dry and does not bring up any mucus.
Self care for a productive cough
- Drink plenty of liquids and use a vaporizer or hot shower steam to loosen congestion and thin mucus.
- Take an over-the-counter expectorant, such as Robitussin to help thin mucus. Do not take a cough suppressant so much that you are no longer bringing up mucus.
- Stay away from places where people smoke and/or stop smoking.
- Drink 8 oz. of fruit juice, water, soup, or other replenishing liquids every few hours to replace fluids lost through "invisible" perspiration.
Self care for a non-productive cough
- Drink plenty of fluids. Hot beverages, especially those with honey, soothe the throat.
- Take an over-the-counter cough suppressant with dextromethorphan.
- Take a decongestant, such as Sudafed, if you have post-nasal drip, which you can feel at the back of your throat.
- Suck on cough drops, lozenges, or hard candy to soothe and moisten your throat.
- Elevate your head with extra pillows at night.
Seek medical care if . . .
- You have a fever of 101o or higher that persists for more than 2 days.
- You cough up bloody, brown, or green mucus.
- You experience shortness of breath or severe chest pains. If UHS is closed, you can call the physician on-call (275-2662) for advice.
- The cough lasts longer than 10 days to two weeks.
Preventing the spread of the cold virus
- Cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing.
- Wash your hands, especially before handling food or touching your face.
- Discard used tissues and avoiding sharing towels, utensils and cups
- Eat a balanced diet, getting an adequate amount of sleep, & avoiding kissing.
- Keep your stress level down.