A cough could be just a tickle, or a sign of something serious

FEELING CHESTY: There are many causes of coughs, from smoking to environmental factors.

LIKE headaches, sore throats and runny noses, coughs are extremely common and most of the time, nothing to really worry about.

Colds and minor infections are often a cough-causing culprit, but conditions like allergies and asthma — as well as things like the weather, environment, and smoking — can also come into play.

But if a cough doesn’t clear up after a few weeks, how can you tell whether there’s possibly something more serious going on?

Here’s a list of acute and chronic coughs you might encounter:

Chesty cough

Symptoms: A heavy, tight chest; a rattling feeling within the chest; coughing up sticky mucus, and excess mucus in the airways.

Treatment: If the cough is causing irritation, an expectorant cough mixture can be used to help loosen the phlegm.

Dry tickly cough

Symptoms: The throat can become sore when swallowing due to inflammation in the upper airways.

Treatment: A demulcent coats the throat and soothes the passage of the upper respiratory tract.

Post-viral cough

Symptoms: The throat becomes irritated and the cough is trigged by persistent sensitivity of the nerves.

Treatment: Most cases aren’t bacterial, so antibiotics won’t help. Look for a cough syrup with one of the key active ingredients, dextromethorphan and menthol.

Whooping cough

Symptoms: Initial mild, cold-like symptoms that develop over weeks into severe coughing fits that end with a ‘whooping’ sound and bringing up thick phlegm.

Treatment: Vaccination is the key to controlling this disease, which can be very dangerous in young children.

It’s much less serious in older children and is rare in adults, and can be treated with antibiotics and over-the-counter remedies.


Symptoms: A hacking cough that brings up yellow-grey phlegm, and cold-like symptoms including a blocked nose, headache and tiredness.

Treatment: Most bronchitis symptoms can be managed at home with bed rest and lots of fluids to prevent dehydration and thin the mucus.

Aches and pains can be treated with paracetamol, and over-the-counter medicines that line your throat can help. Antibiotics should be reserved for those with chronic chest disease.


Symptoms: Wheezing and a shortness of breath, plus a tight chest and cough.

Treatment: GPs will prescribe bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory inhaled steroids.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Symptoms: Breathlessness on exercise, a persistent phlegmy cough and frequent chest infections.

Treatment: Stop smoking. Become more active and eat a healthy diet to prevent infections.


Venetia Quick, co-founder of ‘Grief Encounters’ tells Ruth O’Connor that there is no right or wrong way to grieve the death of a loved one.Grief Encounters: Podcast opening up conversation about bereavement

Once again for this week’s review I was reminded about the quality of Irish meat — and yet it seems the meat processors expect our farmers to produce it at a loss.Restaurant Review: Mister S, Camden St Upper, Dublin 2

Your guide to what's going on in the gardening world this week.Gardening notes: Your guide to what's on

I went to Holy Faith in Clontarf in Dublin and I still have a big group of friends from school. These days, like most people, we use a WhatsApp group to communicate!School Daze with Nadia Forde: I wish I had embraced my differences at school

More From The Irish Examiner