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How to Get Rid of Cough in 5 Minutes

The Hyfe Mind

|

February 15, 2021
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

A woman holding her hand in front of her face, symbolizing stopping a cough

How to get rid of cough in 5 minutes? It's something many of us have wondered when dealing with a tough cough. There are numerous remedies and approaches that can offer immediate cough relief and soothe irritation. In this guide, we've put together 30 tried-and-true methods for fast and effective results. Let's get started!

Quick At-Home Cough Remedies

Gargle With Salt Water

Gargling salt water can be an excellent way to get rid of a cough. If you're wondering how to stop a tickly cough instantly, gargling lukewarm salt water four times a day is especially helpful with this type of cough. In a small study from 20191, researchers found that participants benefited more from salt water treatments than over-the-counter medication. Note, however, that these results are preliminary.

While coughs stem from various causes, they are often the result of airway inflammation caused by bacteria and viruses. Therefore, salt water helps eliminate coughs by soothing these inflamed areas, as well as the itch you feel in your throat, and returning you to normal.

How to get rid of cough fast with salt water

Mix half a teaspoon of salt into 8 fl oz (around 240 mL) of warm water. Gargle it for 10 to 15 seconds four times a day (for example, when you wake up, after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner). 

A woman holding a cup and gargling saltwater

Neti Pot – Rinse Your Nose

A neti pot cleans out your nose, typically with a saltwater mix, helping stop coughs from stuffy noses or drippy mucus. By maintaining clean nasal passages, you can prevent postnasal drip/upper airway cough syndrome, a common cause of coughing2.

How to use a neti pot for cough: 

  1. Mix one teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of baking soda in 19 fl oz (around 570 ml) of boiled and cooled water. Adjust the amount of salt so you don’t experience stinging or burning sensations
  2. Put this into a freshly cleaned neti pot/nasal irrigation pot
  3. Bend over a sink or other container and slightly tilt your head to around 45°
  4. Breathe through your mouth and don’t speak during the nasal irrigation
  5. Pour half of the salt water into the upper nostril; it should flow out the lower nostril
  6. Tilt your head the other way and repeat for the second nostril
  7. Breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose to make sure it’s empty of water

Use the neti pot three to four times a day for the best outcome. Regularly clean your neti pot with dishwashing soap and hot water.

Steam Inhalation

Breathing in steam is a classic method to alleviate cough and other respiratory symptoms. The warm moisture helps to thin and loosen mucus, making it easier to expel. Additionally, steam inhalation soothes irritated airways, offering immediate relief.

How to use steam inhalation for cough: 

  1. Pour hot, freshly boiled water into a heatproof bowl and lean over it, ensuring your face is at a safe distance to avoid burns
  2. Drape a towel over your head and the bowl to trap the steam, then inhale deeply
  3. Do this for five to 10 minutes, or until you feel relief

Steam inhalation can be done multiple times a day, especially before bedtime to ensure a cough-free sleep.

Using Steam Therapy for Cough: Learn more about using steam as a cough remedy

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

Hydrate

When you're coughing non-stop, sipping water can provide near-instant relief. Staying hydrated soothes a scratchy throat and combats that dry, ticklish feeling. But why is water so effective?

Our lungs are lined with mucus that acts as a protective shield, catching harmful particles before they get deep into our lungs. Drinking water ensures this mucus is just right – not too thick or too thin – making it more efficient at trapping these pathogens.

Being well-hydrated also keeps our lungs working smoothly, allowing us to breathe easier and transfer oxygen and other gases more effectively3.

When we're dehydrated, this mucus gets thick and sticky. This not only weakens its protective role but also makes us cough more as our body tries to clear out the thickened mucus and trapped irritants. Drinking water helps keep our airways clear by making it easier for the lungs to clear out the thinner mucus discharge4.

Quit Smoking

Stay away from smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping, and sources of secondhand smoke.

Smoking irritates the airways and lungs, leading to inflammation and swelling. This persistent irritation can result in a chronic cough, often termed "smoker's cough." Over time, repeated exposure to these harmful chemicals paralyzes the hair-like structures (cilia) in our airways responsible for moving mucus out of the lungs. When these cilia are damaged, mucus can accumulate, leading to persistent coughing as the body tries to clear it with less effective methods5.

Non-smokers aren't wholly safe either – second-hand smoke introduces the same harmful chemicals, risking coughs and other symptoms, particularly in children and those with respiratory conditions6.

The good news is that our bodies’ remarkable ability to heal means that within weeks to months after quitting smoking, the damaged cilia begin to function more effectively, aiding in the clearance of mucus and reducing the need to cough.

How to Quit Smoking: Learn more about ways and techniques you can use to reduce and ultimately stop smoking

Change Your Diet to Reduce Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus (like in GERD), can irritate the throat and trigger coughing. The foods we consume play a significant role in exacerbating or alleviating acid reflux; for instance, spicy and fatty foods can worsen symptoms, while low-acid foods like bananas may help soothe them7.

GERD Diet Plan: Learn more about which foods to eat or avoid when you have heartburn and acid reflux

Avoid Cold Drinks and Foods

Cold drinks or foods such as ice cream can cause a cough because they may temporarily constrict the airways. Although this is a natural response to cold air entering your lungs, it can cause cough and discomfort. When you eat or drink something cold, make sure you do it slowly and warm the beverage or food in your mouth. 

Stay Upright by Sleeping on an Incline

When you're dealing with a cough, your body position matters8. Lying down can often exacerbate a cough, especially if the underlying cause is mucus buildup or acid reflux, as it can allow stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus or can cause mucus to pool, triggering a cough reflex. When you're upright, gravity helps keep stomach acid in its place and helps mucus drain from the respiratory system, reducing the urge to cough.

How to get rid of a cough at night:

  • Keep your head elevated by using multiple pillows
  • If you can’t sleep on multiple pillows, prop up the entire bed so that your head is at a lower level than your feet

Natural Remedies

Honey

Honey has been traditionally used as a cough remedy, particularly in older children, as it can coat and soothe the throat due to its viscous nature. Additionally, its antimicrobial properties might also help reduce the severity of a cough9. Honey was observed to be superior to dextromethorphan in reducing children’s night cough, as well as improving sleep.

Honey has also been hypothesized to assist with mucus clearance10 as well as desensitizing the cough reflex11.

How to use honey for cough:

  • Eat some with a spoon and let it dissolve slowly in your mouth
  • Mix two teaspoons with hot tea or another warm beverage
  • As a snack on a slice of bread

Do not give honey to children under the age of one12

Honey in a jar

Ginger

Ginger possesses anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that may soothe a sore throat and suppress coughing13. It can also help relax the smooth muscles in your airways, which is useful if coughing is a result of airway constriction, like with asthma14

How to use ginger for cough:

  • Steep peeled or cut ginger root in boiling water for 10 minutes to make tea (add honey for a better taste and added cough remedy benefits)
  • Chew ginger
  • Take ginger capsules

Peppermint

Peppermint, rich in menthol, can act as a natural decongestant, breaking down mucus and soothing the throat15.

How to use peppermint for cough:

  • Brew peppermint tea
  • Inhale peppermint vapor from a steam bath (add a few drops of peppermint essential oil  to your hot water)16

Marshmallow

This means the marshmallow plant and not the sweets! The marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis), due to its mucilage content, can coat and soothe the throat, reducing irritation and inflammation in the respiratory tract.

People have used its leaves and roots since ancient times17, but there have been no placebo-controlled studies so far to support the anecdotal evidence although a pair of customer questionnaires found people reported improvements after taking marsh mallow lozenges or syrup18 and a review article found evidence of expectorant and antitussive effects of marsh mallow19.  

How to use marshmallow for cough:

  • Brew marshmallow root tea
  • Take capsules, syrup, or lozenges

Do not use marshmallow as a cough remedy for children under the age of three years.

Thyme

Thyme contains compounds called flavonoids that can relax the trachea muscles involved in coughing, so it can act as an antispasmodic to ease coughs. In vitro, thyme extract increases the rate at which the cilia beat, making the lungs more effective at clearing mucus20. It can even relieve short-term bronchitis when taken with ivy leaves as an extract21.

How to use thyme for cough:

  • Make tea by boiling two teaspoons of crushed thyme leaves
  • Take thyme and ivy leaf extract, available at pharmacies and naturalist medicine shops
Thyme tea

Turmeric

Turmeric contains a component known as curcumin, which has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial benefits22. These properties can be especially helpful in addressing conditions like a dry cough. Historically, in the ancient Indian medicinal practice of Ayurveda, turmeric has been a go-to remedy for respiratory issues, like bronchitis and asthma. You can find turmeric in spice form at most grocery stores, and it's also available as a supplement in capsule form. 

How to use turmeric for cough:

For better absorption of curcumin in the body, pair it with black pepper – black pepper contains an antioxidant compound called piperine23, which has been shown to increase the amount of curcumin the body can absorb24.

  • Mix a teaspoon of turmeric with a pinch of black pepper in a beverage, either cold or warm, and consume.
  • Make or order a turmeric latte, although avoid dairy milk if your cough produces a lot of mucus25.

Masala Chai Tea

Masala chai literally means “spiced tea” in Hindi and is a warm drink made with black tea, sugar, and a mixture of spices. Traditional blends of spices contain several antioxidants including cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this mixture is effective in helping your lungs expel excessive mucus, as well as act against inflammation

How to use masala chai tea for cough:

  1. Crush two to three cloves, 1/2–3/4 teaspoons of cinnamon, four cardamom pods, and two to four peppercorns in a pestle and mortar
  2. Put the crushed spices, three to four black tea bags, 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons of ginger, and one-and-a-half to two cups of water (around 350 mL to 475 mL) in a saucepan
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, then simmer for two to three minutes
  4. Add three to four teaspoons of sugar and one cup (240 mL) of milk
  5. Remove the tea bags and simmer for a further three to four minutes; the drink will reduce in volume and thicken
  6. Enjoy your warm, spicy drink!

Capsaicin

Capsaicin, derived from chili peppers, can help reduce cough sensitivity, and the urge to cough by numbing throat tissues and desensitizing the airway mucosa26.

How to use capsaicin for cough:

  • Steep chili peppers in warm water to make a drink
  • Take capsaicin in the form of capsules

Slippery Elm

Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) produces a gel-like substance that coats the throat, reducing irritation and suppressing cough. Its soothing effects on mucous membranes are backed by studies that also explore its antioxidant effects27.

How to use slippery elm for cough:

  • Consult with your healthcare provider before consuming slippery elm because interactions with other medications are possible
  • Take as a powder or a capsule
  • Steep one teaspoon of dried slippery elm in a cup of hot water for ten minutes then drink

Bromelain

Bromelain, a compound predominantly found in pineapples, can help reduce coughs and decrease mucus production due to its anti-inflammatory and mucolytic properties. Research supports its therapeutic use, as seen in studies involving its administration in conditions like sinusitis28.

How to use bromelain for cough:

  • Consult with your healthcare provider before consuming pineapple or bromelain because they might interact with other medications
  • Eat a slice of pineapple
  • Drink fresh two to three cups of pineapple juice a day

Pineapple for Cough: Learn more about the uses and benefits of pineapple for cough and overall wellness

Over-the-Counter Solutions and Prescriptions

Take a Cough Drop or a Lozenge

How to make yourself stop coughing instantly? Cough lozenges, often called throat drops or cough drops, are small, medicated tablets designed to dissolve slowly in the mouth. They aim to provide quick immediate relief from coughs and soothe an irritated throat. Ingredients in these lozenges can be menthol honey, and/or various other compounds, all intended to numb the throat, reduce inflammation, or suppress the cough reflex. Over time, cough lozenges have gained popularity as an accessible over-the-counter remedy for temporary relief. 

Do Cough Drops Work: All questions about cough drops answered including whether they work, how they work, and if you can overdose on cough drops

Nasal Spray

Nasal sprays are over-the-counter or prescription liquids administered via the nostrils. They can contain various active ingredients, including saline, steroids, or antihistamines, each designed to address specific nasal symptoms. While primarily used to treat nasal congestion or allergies, they can also help in relieving coughs indirectly, particularly if the cough is caused by postnasal drip/upper airway cough syndrome. 

Postnasal drip, a condition where mucus flows from the nasal passages down the back of the throat, can irritate the throat and trigger coughing. By alleviating nasal congestion or reducing nasal inflammation, nasal sprays can decrease the amount of postnasal drip and, consequently, reduce coughing associated with it.

Some nasal sprays are available over-the-counter and some need to be prescribed by your PCP. It is always best to discuss with your PCP before starting any new medication.

OTC Cough Medicines

Over-the-counter (OTC) cough medications are readily available remedies that aim to relieve coughs without a prescription. Generally, these medications fall into two primary categories: expectorants and suppressants.

Expectorants, like guaifenesin, work by thinning the mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up and clear. This can be especially helpful for productive coughs where mucus build-up is an issue. On the other hand, suppressants, like dextromethorphan, act on the brain's cough center to reduce the urge to cough. These are particularly useful for dry, non-productive coughs that are irritating but do not produce mucus.

Overall, OTC medicines are considered safe and effective29 when you adhere to the instructions on the label and as advised by your healthcare provider.

Medicine in bottles

Get A Prescription Medication

Certain persistent or severe coughs may not respond adequately to over-the-counter and home treatments and require a more targeted approach. In such cases, a doctor may prescribe specific medications tailored to the underlying cause of the cough. Prescription cough medicines typically contain stronger active ingredients or combinations thereof designed to suppress the cough reflex, address underlying inflammation, or target potential infections. 

For instance, if a bacterial infection is the root cause of a cough, antibiotics may be prescribed. Similarly, for those with asthma or chronic bronchitis, inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators might be the preferred treatment. It's crucial to only use prescription medications as directed by a healthcare professional and to communicate any side effects or concerns promptly.

Medicine for Cough: Learn more about cough medicine types and what they are used for

Use a Nebulizer

Nebulizers are common tools used to help with lung problems. They turn liquid medicine into mist, which is then breathed in through a mouthpiece or mask. This mist goes straight to the lungs, making it work faster. It's useful in alleviating various respiratory symptoms, including cough. 

Nebulizer for Cough: Learn about the use of nebulizers in cough therapy, when to use it, and how to use a nebulizer for cough

Environmental Adjustments

Enjoy a Hot Bath or Shower

Indulging in a hot bath or shower can be an immediate relief for coughs. The warm steam generated helps to loosen and thin out mucus, making it easier to cough up or drain from nasal passages30. This is especially useful for those with thick phlegm or chest congestion. Breathing in this moist air can soothe the irritated airways, reducing the urge to cough.

Clear Irritants from Your Home

Keeping your living space free from dust31, pollen, pet dander32, and other potential irritants is crucial. These particles can provoke or exacerbate coughing, especially in those with respiratory conditions or allergies. Regular cleaning, vacuuming with HEPA filters, and washing bed linens often can drastically reduce these airborne irritants and, consequently, the severity or frequency of coughing.

Use an Air Purifier

Air purifiers can be a game-changer for those susceptible to airborne irritants. These devices work by drawing air through filters that capture and remove harmful particles, such as dust, smoke, pollen, and pet dander. By reducing the concentration of these irritants in the air, air purifiers can help to alleviate coughing and other respiratory symptoms33.

An air purifier in a room with a plant

Maintain a Comfortable Level of Air Humidity 

In drier climates or during colder months indoor air can become particularly dry, making a humidifier beneficial. The drying and irritation of the respiratory tract can be a common trigger for coughing. Dry air can thicken mucus, making it harder to clear and increasing the urge to cough. By adding moisture to the air using a humidifier, you can maintain a comfortable level of humidity in your home, aiding in the relief of coughing symptoms34.

Air Purifier and Air Humidifier for Cough: Learn more about the role of air purifiers and humidifiers in helping with cough

Breathing and Cough Suppression Techniques:

Use Airway Clearance Techniques to Clear Excess Mucus

Airway clearance techniques are methods to remove extra mucus from our airways. These techniques help prevent infections, boost airflow, lessen inflammation, and promote lung health.

Airway Clearance Techniques: Learn more about the exact techniques you can use at home to help your lungs expel excess mucus

Suppress Your Cough with Breathing Exercises

Behavioral cough suppression therapy (BCST) is a method for suppressing your cough reflex consciously. Doctors recommend BCST when standard medications and therapy are not making significant progress in reducing a cough. You can ask your physician to refer you to a speech-language pathologist who can teach you the basics of BCST and its long-term benefits. This is done after comprehensive tests are conducted that show medication will not be effective in managing the chronic cough. 

Once you learn how to perform them, BCST techniques are very effective in acting on the urge to cough and retraining the nervous system in order to reduce that urge and thus cough hypersensitivity.

Behavioral Cough Suppression Therapy: Learn more about what BCST is, how it works, why it works, and if it’s an option that you should try out for your chronic cough

Conclusion

All right, there you have it – 30 quick and effective methods to combat that pesky cough. Remember, while these solutions can offer temporary relief, it's essential to get to the root of your cough for lasting results. Always consult with a healthcare professional if your symptoms persist. Here's to breathing easy and getting back to feeling your best!

References
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Your Cough Matters

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  • Excellent, insightful
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    App is great at tracking cough when little ones are sick. I treat it as a early warning indicator before the cold gets back. Customer service is awesome, they actually respond to all my questions.
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  • Great Experience
    by Christi Hammock — Mar 7, 2023, - Google Play

    I had an issue logging into the new app but I contacted the support team and they were awesome in helping me figure out the issue. It turned out to be a technical issue which they resolved very quickly and I was kept in the loop on the status from start to finish. This app is really helpful when talking to my doctor too..
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  • Impressive app
    By KayakTina - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    "The app accurately is recording my coughs with excellent ways to review the results. I can add notes to help me identify patterns or have accurate information for my physicians. I’ve hoped for an app like this for years to help me accurately track the amount of coughing I’m doing"
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  • Accurate count of coughs
    by Beardonna — Mar 8, 2023 - App Store

    Just installed the app. Very accurate measuring coughs so far! Cannot wait to see how much coughing I do while sleeping. I'll have a better picture to discuss with my physician at my next visit.

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