Coughing is a common symptom of colds and the flu (influenza). While it can be a nuisance and disrupt your daily life, it serves a vital purpose in helping to clear mucus and irritants from your airways. However, persistent coughing can be uncomfortable and exhausting. Fortunately, there are several effective strategies to relieve a cough caused by a cold or flu. In this article, we’ll explore these strategies to help you find relief and get back to feeling your best.

Stay Hydrated

One of the most important steps in relieving a cough is to stay well-hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to thin mucus and soothe an irritated throat. Opt for warm liquids like herbal tea with honey or clear broths to provide comfort and hydration. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can contribute to dehydration.

Honey and Lemon

Honey and lemon are natural remedies that can help soothe a sore throat and reduce coughing. Mix a tablespoon of honey with freshly squeezed lemon juice in warm water to create a soothing drink. Honey coats the throat and has antimicrobial properties, while lemon provides vitamin C to support your immune system.

Steam Inhalation

Inhaling steam can provide immediate relief from a cough by loosening mucus and soothing irritated airways. Boil a pot of water, and once it’s steaming, place your face over the pot with a towel draped over your head to trap the steam. Breathe deeply for 10-15 minutes. You can also add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to the water for added relief.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications

Over-the-counter cough medications, such as cough syrups or lozenges, can help suppress a cough and ease discomfort. Look for products that contain ingredients like dextromethorphan for cough suppression or guaifenesin to loosen mucus. Always follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or are taking other medications.


Over-the-Counter (OTC) medications for cold and flu can help alleviate symptoms and make you feel more comfortable while your body fights off the illness. Here are some common OTC medications used for cold and flu relief, along with their active ingredients:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. It can help reduce fever and relieve headaches and body aches associated with colds and flu.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin): Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that can help reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. It’s useful for relieving symptoms like headache and muscle aches.
  • Naproxen (Aleve): Similar to ibuprofen, naproxen is an NSAID that can reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. It can be used to alleviate cold and flu symptoms.
  • Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed): Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant that can temporarily relieve nasal congestion and sinus pressure. It’s often used to alleviate congestion caused by colds and the flu.
  • Phenylephrine: Phenylephrine is another decongestant found in many OTC cold and flu medications. It can help relieve nasal congestion and sinus pressure.
  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, Delsym): Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant that can help control coughing associated with colds and the flu.
  • Guaifenesin (Mucinex): Guaifenesin is an expectorant that can help loosen mucus and phlegm, making it easier to clear congestion and cough.
  • Antihistamines (Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec): Antihistamines can help relieve symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, and itching that may accompany colds and allergies. Some antihistamines may cause drowsiness (e.g., Benadryl), while others are non-drowsy (e.g., Claritin, Zyrtec).
  • Cough Drops or Lozenges (e.g., Halls, Ricola): These contain soothing ingredients like menthol or honey that can temporarily relieve sore throat and coughing.
  • Multi-Symptom Cold and Flu Formulas (e.g., DayQuil, NyQuil, Theraflu): These products often contain a combination of active ingredients to address multiple symptoms, such as fever, cough, congestion, and pain.

Rest and Sleep

Rest is essential for your body to heal and recover from a cold or flu. Adequate sleep also boosts your immune system’s ability to fight off the infection. Make sure to get plenty of rest, and consider taking short naps during the day if needed. Elevating your upper body with extra pillows can help reduce nighttime coughing.

Humidify Your Environment

Dry air can irritate your throat and worsen coughing. Using a humidifier in your bedroom can add moisture to the air, making it easier to breathe and reducing coughing episodes. Be sure to clean the humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.

Saltwater Gargle

Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat and reduce coughing. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, then gargle with the solution for 15-30 seconds before spitting it out. Repeat this several times a day for relief.

Avoid Irritants

Avoiding irritants like cigarette smoke, air pollution, and strong odors can help prevent further irritation of your throat and reduce coughing. If you smoke, consider quitting or at least refrain from smoking during illness.

Coughing is a common symptom of colds and the flu, but there are many strategies you can use to relieve it and make your recovery more comfortable. Staying hydrated, using natural remedies like honey and lemon, inhaling steam, and getting adequate rest are all effective ways to ease a cough. Over-the-counter medications and saltwater gargles can also provide relief. By following these tips and taking good care of yourself, you can alleviate your cough and recover more quickly from colds and the flu. However, if your cough persists for an extended period or is accompanied by severe symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.