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. The treatment will depend on the cause, so you may need tests to find out what that is.
When to call for help
- If there are signs of an infection present (e.g. high temperature, sweating, dirty sputum). Call your GP as you may need antibiotics.
- If you are coughing up blood
- If the breathlessness persists and you are concerned, then seek help.