Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Cough is a common symptom for colds and the flu.

Cough is a common symptom for colds and the flu.
beginning of content

Cough

What is a cough?

Most coughs are caused by viruses which inflame the throat, windpipe or lungs. Coughs caused by viruses can last for several weeks, but your body will normally fight off the infection without the need for medical treatment.

Coughs can also be caused by an infection like laryngitis, sinusitis, whooping cough, bronchitis or pneumonia. Sometimes they are caused by an allergy or a flare up of a long-term problem like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic bronchitis.

Antibiotics are of no use in a viral infection.

Cough is a common symptom for colds and the flu. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them. In general symptoms are more intense with the flu.

Self-care of a cough

If you are looking after yourself, the tips below may help relieve the symptoms:

  • It is important to stay well hydrated so drink plenty of water. If you have an existing medical condition check with your doctor about how much water is right for you. Use extra pillows (for older children and adults) or raise the head of the bed to reduce coughing at night.
  • Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
  • Rest and avoid heavy activity until symptoms go away.
  • Smoking or breathing in other people’s smoke can make symptoms worse. Try to avoid being around people who are smoking. If you are a smoker, try to cut down or quit. For advice on quitting smoking, visit the Quit Now website.
  • Find out more about self-care tips if you have a high temperature (fever).

Please seek medical attention if:

  • you have a cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks
  • the cough is severe or getting worse
  • you are short of breath
  • you cough up blood
  • you have unexplained problems like weight loss or a fever.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your cough, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: September 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 743 results

Haemoptysis (Coughing Up Blood) | myVMC

haemoptysis is a disease that symptoms include coughing up blood from the lungs. Causes bronchitis, lung cancer and pneumonia.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Cough | myVMC

Medical information about causes of coughing, whooping cough symptoms, kennel cough dry cough medicine, chronic cough, whooping cough symptom of croup cough with cough remedies.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Whooping Cough

Whooping cough (which is sometimes also called pertussis) is a serious infection that usually causes a long coughing illness. In babies, the infection can be life threatening.

Read more on NSW Health website

Cough: dry cough - myDr.com.au

A dry cough is one that is non-productive (no phlegm or mucus is produced) and irritating. Find out the causes, tests and when to see the doctor.

Read more on myDr website

Logicin Cough Suppressant | myVMC

Logicin Cough Suppressant is used to relief non productive coughs. It contains pholcodine, an opioid derivative that suppresses the medullary cough centre.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Whooping cough overview - myDr.com.au

Whooping cough is a highly infectious disease that causes sudden attacks of coughing that often end in a high-pitched whooping sound.

Read more on myDr website

Immunise - Whooping Cough (pertussis)

Whooping Cough (pertussis) Page last updated: 23 February 2016 Whooping Cough (pertussis)is an extremely contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacteriumBordetella pertussis

Read more on Department of Health website

Whooping cough (pertussis)

Whooping cough is a highly infectious disease that can be a life threatening infection in babies.

Read more on WA Health website

Whooping Cough (Pertussis) | myVMC

Whooping cough, otherwise known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease which affects the respiratory system and produces spasms of coughing that usually end in a high-pitched sounding deep inspiration of air, which is what is referred to as the whoop

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Cough: productive or 'wet' cough - myDr.com.au

A productive or 'wet' cough brings up mucus or phlegm. Find out the causes and when to see the doctor.

Read more on myDr website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback