9 Tips To Stop Coughing

If you want to learn how to stop coughing, you’ve come to the right place.

Coughs are one of the most common symptoms people experience. 

It is a sudden expulsion of air through significant breathing passages that can help clear them of fluids, irritants, foreign particles, and microbes. [1]

Coughing can be a one-off occurrence, or it can be persistent, depending on the cause. 

For example, most coughs are caused by a common cold or flu, yet it can be a sign of something serious like lung cancer in rare circumstances. 

Other causes include:

  • Smoking
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Infections like bronchitis
  • Allergies like hay fever or asthma
  • Mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose

So sometimes, a mild cough can be due to a serious life-threatening disease, while a severe cough may be a symptom of a mild acute infection that will pass on its own. 

It is difficult to say when precisely a cough should be considered severe enough to warrant medical attention. 

In the ideal situation, one has to keep note of how a cough progresses and use a level of discernment to know when to see the doctor. 

If you’re looking for some home relief, keep reading to find out how to stop coughing as much.

Types of coughs

Many different health conditions can cause a cough. Therefore, it can be helpful to understand the different types of coughs to identify the situation. 

There are several additional classifications of cough, but according to the American Lung Association (ALA), these are the most notable types:

Acute cough

This cough comes on suddenly and presents a clinical picture lasting shorter than three weeks. Infections to the respiratory tract typically cause it.

Subacute cough

This type of cough has a sudden onset and lasts around 3–8 weeks.

Chronic cough

This is a cough that lasts longer than eight weeks. It can be due to asthma, fungal lung infections, tuberculosis, and lung cancer. Chronic cough is globally prevalent across all age groups. [2]

Productive cough

A productive cough produces mucus when accompanied by expelling mucus or phlegm from the respiratory tract. 

Also known as a wet cough, this is a cough associated with having to spit out after. It appears due to the increase in viscosity and the amount of mucus in the respiratory tract. 

Hemoptysis is when a person is coughing up blood or blood-stained mucus from their lungs.

Dry cough

A dry cough does not produce mucus, so the expulsion of mucus or phlegm does not accompany it. 

Instead, the cough arises as a reflex action to throat irritation due to an inflammation of the respiratory tract, not excess mucus. It is a harsh cough to control.

Nocturnal cough

A nocturnal cough appears or worsens during the night. One common cause is gastroesophageal reflux

After all, when lying down, it is easier for stomach acid to reach the esophagus, thus causing the reflex act of coughing. 

Therefore, it is best to seek medical attention when faced with a nighttime cough that lasts over time. 

Drug-induced cough

A cough can sometimes be a side effect of certain medications, like Lotensin. Also, antiepileptic drugs may also cause a dry cough. One example is Topiramate, but it is often rare. [3] 

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Why can I not stop coughing? 

Why do we cough? Generally, coughing serves as a protective reflex against throat irritation. The repetitive cough reflex typically has three phases: inhalation, forced exhalation, and a forceful release of air from the lungs with the unmistakable sound of a cough. [1] 

Coughing is intended to clear the airways from the throat and larynx to the lower airways, including the trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles. 

Like sneezing clears the nose, coughing clears the pharynx and lower airways. Once the airways are clear and the irritation is gone, the cough subsides. 

Occasionally, someone might have sniffles and coughs simultaneously, especially when there’s a cold. That’s due to specialized receptors in the respiratory system that can initiate sneezing, coughing, or both when irritated or inflamed. These irritant receptors can be stimulated by various factors such as foreign particles, smoke, or dust.

Learning how to control a cough is essential since some coughs can spread disease through infectious respiratory droplets. Therefore, healthcare workers recommend that one covers the mouth and nose with the forearm, the inside of the elbow, a tissue, or a handkerchief while coughing or expecting a cough.

How to stop coughing

A cough usually clears up within 3 to 4 weeks, and self-care may be helpful in some less- severe cases. Still, you should see a doctor if you notice a cough that lasts more than three weeks or worsens with complications. 

The following steps can help in soothing a cough:

  • Drink extra fluids to help thin secretions and make them easier to cough. 
  • Avoid exposure to allergens and irritants. Also, smoking cessation, reducing alcohol, and reducing caffeine intake can reduce the risk factors for chronic coughs.
  • Dry and itchy coughs can be relieved by having cough lozenges or hard candy.
  • Sipping hot water with honey can also provide relief, as hot lemon with honey has a similar effect to cough medicines.
  • Some people opt for a herbal medicine called pelargonium (ideal for people aged 12 or over).
  • If the cough is accompanied by nasal stuffiness, try a saline nasal spray or a neti pot.
  • Increasing humidity in the air helps relieve cough. You can do this with a vaporizer or by taking a steamy shower.
  • Practicing vocal hygiene measures such as adequate hydration, and avoiding vocal strain, can all help relieve chronic coughs. 
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines such as expectorants or painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can also soothe coughs when appropriately used. Antihistamines reduce allergic reactions. While suppressants, along with decongestants, reduce mucus build-ups. For instance, Dextromethorphan temporarily relieves cough caused by the common cold, the flu, or other conditions.

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How to prevent a coughing fit

To remedy a coughing fit, try the following at-home methods: 

  • Avoid using heavily perfumed products like air freshener sprays, candles, cologne, or fragrances that can aggravate your airways.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking at least 4 liters of water daily.
  • Eat smaller amounts at meals to reduce vomit volume if the cough induces vomiting.
  • When used correctly, a humidifier or vaporizer keeps your airways humid, loosening up any mucus buildup and easing the severity of any coughing. 
  • Reduce or eliminate your exposure to smoke from tobacco products or fumes from cooking and fireplaces.
  • Wash your hands often to prevent bacteria from spreading, and avoid touching your face. 
  • Regular bathing can help to keep your body clean and limit bacterial spread.
  • Stay isolated from others as much as possible to prevent bacterial infection. 

A coughing fit can be due to many reasons. Still, it is often because of influenza, sinus infections, or airway infections caused by viruses or bacteria. 

Some other causes of a coughing fit include:

  • Obstructed airway
  • Smoking
  • Common colds 
  • Allergies
  • Croup 
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Bronchitis
  • Whooping cough or pertussis
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Lung cancer

How do you sleep with a cough?

Nighttime coughing may be a symptom of various conditions, including allergies, flu, bronchitis, and asthma. 

One uncommon cause is paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea. It results from a fluid backlog from the heart into the lungs because the heart fails to pump enough blood. As a result, the fluid builds up in the lungs, causing breathing difficulties and coughing more often.

Your sleeping posture can also influence whether you cough more during the night. For instance, coughing often worsens at night because a person is lying flat in bed since mucus can pool in the back of the throat and cause coughing.

Therefore, you should elevate your head to prevent phlegm from accumulating in your throat. One practical step is to elevate the head of the bed so your body is at a more vertical angle to enhance airflow. In addition, sleeping with the head elevated can decrease postnasal drip and GERD symptoms, which cause coughing at night. 

If you have an allergic cough at night, staying hydrated by drinking water throughout the day can help. Also, a humidifier can keep the dryness of the night air from irritating your respiratory system. 

However, having a bottle of water near your bed is a good fail-safe if the night cough continues. Drinking the water could soothe you. 

Another nighttime cough hack requires you to take a menthol cough drop or a hard candy to assist in lubricating your throat before going to bed.

Nighttime cough allergies are often caused by pets, pollen, ragweed, and dust, and daily behaviors can irritate these allergies. Other factors include the stagnancy and quality of bedroom air and exposure to lint, dust, pollen, and mites from the bedding.  

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When does a cough become serious?

First, of course, continuous coughing could be a sign of some underlying irritation or disease. Still, a cough that eases after a few minutes might not be something to worry about unless it returns. 

Secondly, if certain complications accompany the cough, it warrants medical attention. For instance, if the cough causes difficulty breathing. That may be dangerous as difficulty breathing results from pooling fluid in the lungs and irritated or constricted airways.

Acute complications of coughing include:

  • Cough-induced vomiting
  • Choking
  • Trouble breathing or speaking
  • Chest pain
  • Racing heart and grunting noises with each breath
  • Coughing up a lot of bloody phlegm
  • Chills with a high temperature
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fainting episodes after coughing fits 
  • Sleeplessness from coughing at night
  • Involuntary urination due to coughing
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhages causing reddening eyes

Chronic complications include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle soreness
  • Fractures of lower ribs
  • Abdominal and pelvic hernia
  • Inflammation of the chest wall (costochondritis)

Parents and caregivers should also speak to a doctor if their child displays any of the following symptoms:

  • A fever of any kind in an infant under three months of age
  • A cough that lasts longer than three weeks
  • Wheezing, difficult or labored breathing
  • Cyanosis of the lips
  • A loss of appetite or thirst
  • Excessive sleepiness and excessive irritability
  • A fever of 102°F (38.9ºC) or higher in a child of any age

When to see a doctor

When should you seek medical attention for a cough? Seek medical help immediately if your cough begins to worsen or show complications. 

An undetected, persistent, or recurrent cough raises concern. Also, you should see a doctor depending on the ferocity of the coughing fit and its trigger. 

Again, seek medical help if you have an existing respiratory condition and your coughing fits have worsened. 

In addition, if you have a chronic disease such as diabetes or a weakened immune system because of chemotherapy, you should be wary of coughs. 

Once your doctor has determined the cause, they will give treatment as appropriate. To find out what’s causing the cough, the doctor might take a sample of any mucus you might be coughing up and order an X-ray, allergy test, or a test to see how well your lungs work. 

In severe cases, the doctor would refer you to see a specialist. If you have asthma, you need a test that measures airflow in and out of your lungs. That is the spirometry test, and it is requested if you show asthma symptoms. [4]


There are several steps a person can take to stop or manage a cough, but the best method is to find and treat the cause of the cough. However, drinking plenty of water, taking over-the-counter cough medicines, and using an indoor humidifier can all help to stop coughing and relieve congestion. 

To minimize the frequency and intensity of coughing fits, quit smoking, establish better sleeping posture, stay hydrated and avoid exposure to particular allergens or irritants. 

Antihistamines are great for allergy sufferers as they suppress any aggravated immune response to environmental allergens, reducing coughing fits.

A person should also contact a doctor if they or their child develop any other concerning symptoms. Regardless, if the cough becomes more severe or there are apparent complications, you should see a doctor or a healthcare professional. They will work to identify the cause of the symptoms and prescribe appropriate treatments. 

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