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Coughing is your body’s way of clearing your airways of mucus and irritants. Most coughs will resolve without treatment in two to three weeks.
But if your cough lasts longer than three weeks, or you have other worrying symptoms, you should see a doctor.
Coughs can either be dry or productive. A dry cough is often described as a ‘tickly cough’, where no mucus is produced. A productive cough is a cough which produces mucus (phlegm).
A cough that lasts less than three weeks is usually the result of a common virus, like the cold or flu, and is rarely a cause for concern.
Keep reading to find out more about the different causes of coughs, how to treat them, and when to see a doctor.
An acute cough is a cough that lasts for less than three weeks but tends to improve after one week.
Other causes of an acute cough include:
A subacute cough is a cough that lasts for more than three weeks (acute cough) but less than eight weeks (chronic cough).
There are different causes of a subacute cough, such as:
A chronic cough is a cough that lasts for more than eight weeks. This type of cough can result from a number of different conditions, such as:
There are two types of cough, a dry cough, which is a tickly cough in the back of your throat that doesn’t produce any mucus, and a productive cough, which is a chesty cough that does produce mucus.
A dry cough will usually last around 2-3 weeks, and is likely caused by an upper respiratory tract infection.
Most adults will experience an acute cough two to five times a year. It is rarely a cause for concern, and should get better without specific treatment.
However, a chronic cough might suggest an underlying lung condition. You should see a doctor if your cough lasts for longer than three weeks.
Mild, acute coughs don’t always require treatment, and most will resolve on their own. You should try to rest and drink plenty of fluids, including warm water with lemon and honey.
If your cough is caused by a specific illness, then you will need to treat the condition to resolve the cough.
Most coughs only last a few days to a few weeks and they are usually caused by a common virus. However, you should see a doctor about your cough if:
If you are coughing up blood you should see a doctor immediately.
Coughs can linger, but usually there’s nothing to worry about.
Remember, if your cough is caused by a virus, then antibiotics won’t help. Instead, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest and relaxation.
If your cough lasts longer than three weeks you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you experience any other worrying symptoms.
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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.