Coughing can be helpful because it helps to clear our airways, but it can also be uncomfortable, embarrassing and affect our ability to sleep, rest and eat.
If you’re coughing up green or dark yellow phlegm (sputum), you may have an infection and need to take antibiotics. Some people need physiotherapy to help them clear their airways. Sometimes steam inhalations or saline given as a fine spray through a nebuliser are helpful.
If you have a dry irritable cough, your doctor may prescribe a cough mixture to help. If your cough is persistent then painkillers like codeine or morphine can be helpful.
Occasionally people cough up blood. It’s important to let your doctor know if this happens or if the symptom gets worse. It can be caused by a chest infection, by a blood clot in the lung, by bleeding from small blood vessels in the lungs or from a tumour in the lungs. The treatment will depend on the cause, so you may need tests to find out what that is. Antibiotics can help treat a chest infection, or your doctor may prescribe a drug called tranexamic acid, which encourages blood to clot and reduces bleeding. Radiotherapy can often be helpful when the cause is a tumour in the lung.