Home Remedies for Coughs

Home remedies for coughs

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

Despite popular belief, the common cold and its symptoms are not caused because of seasonal changes. Rather, colds and coughs occur simply because of germs being spread. Virus-filled airborne droplets get coughed or sneezed into the air by someone who is sick.

The droplets are then inhaled by another person or are spread by someone touching the same surfaces a sick person already touched. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, coughs are indeed spread more often during winter, however, most likely because of the following reasons:

  • School is in session, increasing exposure to sick people (versus summer when children are outside more often).
  • People stay inside because of chilling temperatures, which allows germs to get passed around faster than when outdoors.

Because coughs are often caused by a virus and not treatable by antibiotics, it helps to have some home remedies you can utilize when an annoying cough strikes. Here are some potential options for treating your cough at home.

Home Remedies for Coughs 

Adults experience frequent respiratory infections, such as the common cold, two to four times a year. Meanwhile, children get these infection types eight to 10 times a year.

Although you can get sick with a cough a number of times each year, not all of these coughs require a visit with a healthcare provider. Most coughs go away in about a week on their own.

You can often manage your cough with home treatments that stave off cold symptoms and boost your immune system. To keep this winter season as virus-free as possible, you can use these home remedies to help keep coughs at bay.

Probiotics

In a review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on common cough and cold treatments and preventions, researchers found that the use of probiotics reduced antibiotic use. In one particular study, 638 children ages 3 to 6 were randomly assigned to receive either a drink containing a probiotic or a placebo for 90 days. Results showed that the use of the probiotic created a reduction of 0.6 upper respiratory tract infections per 100 days.

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that can boost immunity and improve gut health. Popular options for common colds include miso soup for warming a sore throat, kombucha for hydration and soothing a sore throat, and yogurt for a nutritious option when swallowing solid food is challenging.

Zinc

Taking zinc supplements can help combat coughing and can be purchased at any grocery or drug store. Aaron Hartman, MD, a functional and integrative medicine doctor, recommends supplementing your nutrition regime with a daily zinc dosage in the range of 30 to 40 milligrams.

Aaron Hartman, MD

[Low levels of zinc] are associated with an increased incidence of viral respiratory tract infections and hospitalizations from lung infections.

— Aaron Hartman, MD

"[Low levels of zinc] are associated with an increased incidence of viral respiratory tract infections and hospitalizations from lung infections," he says.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials on zinc involving 2,121 participants. Compared to patients given a placebo, those who took zinc and oral zinc formulations had a shorter duration of cold symptoms.

Ginger

A few slices of raw ginger root in boiling water could offer some curative abilities, says Daniel Boyer, MD, of the Farr Institute. He recommends using 1 gram of ginger to help reduce symptoms often accompanied by influenza, such as coughs.

According to a study, researchers confirmed that ginger has a number of health properties that can impact both the immune and respiratory systems. They found that ginger can help prevent the common cold, and be used as a home remedy for coughing, as it reduces sore throats, the inflammation of the mucosal layer, and congestion.

Cough Cocktails

You can create your own gentle home remedies for coughs, says Dr. Hartman. He recommends experimenting with cough cocktails to see what works for you.

Cough Cocktail Recipes

  • Boil a lemon in water for one to two minutes.
  • Add a teaspoon of raw honey mixed in about a quarter cup of warm water and sip slowly.
  • Make a green tea and sweeten an 8-ounce cup with a teaspoon of raw honey.


Lemon offers a high dose of vitamin C and is one of the most vital vitamins to boost the immune system and render antibacterial and antiviral properties. Honey is another natural remedy for cough that has been used for thousands of years.

Rich in antibacterial compounds, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend honey to help in calming a cough. In addition, in a systematic review and meta-analysis using 14 studies, researchers found honey was effective for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections.

Comparing honey with placebo for relieving symptoms of respiratory illness, honey improved both cough frequency and severity. Results also showed honey was superior to typical home health care and provided a cheap alternative to antibiotics.

Wash Your Hands

Viruses that cause coughs can stick around on your hands. To get rid of these viruses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates you should wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially after heading out to any public spaces.

Either cold or warm water will work. Focus on scrubbing the back of your hands, wrists, your fingers, and over your fingernails (and under them if they are long).

If soap is not available, a sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol will do. You might want to carry it with you when you are out in public to keep from getting germs and spreading the germs that you have.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Coughs do not always go away on their own. If your cough persists, you might have a more serious health condition that needs treatment. Contact a healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Cough lasting more than 3 weeks
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Cough that has yellow or green phlegm
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for 3 days
  • Chills
  • Worsening symptoms

A Word from Verywell

Home remedies can work, but they are not the answer for every bout of coughing you have. You should contact a healthcare provider when your symptoms are worse than usual. Trust your instincts because you know your body best.

Also, take precautions to avoid getting a cough. These include getting the recommended vaccines, washing your hands often, and staying away from anyone who is feeling ill.

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7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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