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Most coughs, like most colds, will get better without any help from the doctor if you have previously been fit and well with no chest problems. Cough mixes from the chemist may be soothing. Make your own by adding a few drops of lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey to a cup of hot water. Steam inhalation (as used for a blocked nose) may ease the coughing by loosening the phlegm and opening the airways.

When to see your doctor...

Asthmatics should increase their use of their inhalers whenever they develop a cough. They should make sure they know the difference between the preventer and the reliever inhalers if they have the two types. The asthma nurse may be able to advise them. If they are short of breath and the inhalers are not helping they must see their doctor urgently. The elderly or those with previous chest problems should also see their doctor within a few days of developing a cough or shortness of breath.

Other people should contact their doctor if they:
Cough up blood
Cough up a lot of thick green phlegm
Develop pain in the chest
Are very short of breath