What causes a chesty cough?
There can be many causes of a chesty cough but a common cause of chesty cough is a mild respiratory tract infection, such as a cold. Some other possible causes for coughs include:1,2
- Allergies that involve the nose or sinuses
- Post-nasal drip
- Tobacco smoke or smoking
Why do we get chesty coughs?
There are tiny hair-like structures (cilia) that help keep our airways clear from foreign particles in mucus or phlegm.3 When this mucus builds up and we cannot clear it, we may develop a chesty, productive cough. This is the body’s response to remove excess mucus.4
Do I have a chesty cough?
Identifying the type of cough you have is an important step in getting the right product. Some symptoms associated with chesty coughs are:6
- A wet, productive cough
- The presence of sticky mucus or phlegm after persistent coughing
- Cough is often worse in the morning
- If you have different symptoms, you may have a dry cough. (If unsure check with your HCP)
How do you relieve a chesty cough?
Relief for a chesty cough aims to try to clear the chest of excess mucus, not suppressing the cough.5,1
There are different cough preparations available on the market and use of a single active ingredient is preferable to the use of combination preparations.6
Mucolytics may help clear the chest of excess mucus by reducing the viscosity of the mucus, making it easier to cough up.1 Bromhexine hydrochloride is a well-tolerated mucolytic that thins loosens and clears mucus, allowing mucus to move up and out of the chest.7 It can be used when you have a cold producing excess mucus or for other conditions where excess mucus is produced.7
When to see your doctor about your chesty cough
If you have a chesty cough, you should seek medical attention if:6,7
- Your cough lasts for more than 5 days
- The cough is severe or getting worse
- You are short of breath
- You cough up blood
- You have unexplained problems like weight loss or a fever
Does having a chesty cough mean I have a chest infection?
A chest infection is an infection that affects your lungs, either in the larger airways (bronchitis) or in, the smaller air sacs (pneumonia). There is a build-up of pus and fluid (mucus), and the airways become swollen, making it difficult for you to breathe. Chest infections can be diagnosed by your doctor either by X-ray, phlegm sample or blood test.8
Self-care tips for easing chesty cough symptoms 8,9,10
Looking after yourself while you have a chesty cough helps keep your symptoms manageable and gives your body the care it needs to manage the infection causing your cough. Here are some gentle self-care tips for when you’re at home with a chesty cough:
- Stop a coughing bout — Help relieve a bout of coughing by sipping water or sucking lozenges.
- Loosen mucus — Loosen mucus with steam inhalation or a hot shower
- Don’t smoke — Smoking will aggravate your cough
- Cover, Discard, Wash — Always cover your cough with your elbow or a tissue, discard any tissues used and wash your hands.
- Eat well and drink plenty of fluids — Stay hydrated and eat healthy meals with plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains. Avoid junk foods high in fat, sugar or salt.
- Rest, Rest, Rest — Support your sleep and try to rest when you have a cough. Raise the head of your bed at night to help you sleep if a post nasal drip is keeping you up at night. Make sure you keep tissues, a glass of water and your cough medicine by your bed at night, so you’re not getting up during the night.
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 Cough in Adults – Lung and Airway Disorders – MSD Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Sep 2021 [cited 23 March 2023]. Available from: ww.merckmanuals.com/home/lung-and-airway-disorders/symptoms-of-lung-disorders/cough-in-adults
 Encyclopedia M. Cough: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. 2021 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003072.htm
 Chang A. The physiology of cough. Paediatric Respiratory Reviews. 2006;7(1):2-8.
 Defense Mechanisms of the Respiratory System – Lung and-airways/ Disorders – MSD Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Jan 2023 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from: www.msdmanuals.com/en-au/home/lung-and-airway-disorders/biology-of-the-lungs-and-airways/defense-mechanisms-of-the-respiratory-system
 Cough: productive or ‘wet’ cough treatments – MyDr.com.au [Internet]. 2021 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from: www.mydr.com.au/respiratory-health/cough-productive-or-wet-cough-treatments/
 Chesty coughs – MyDr.com.au [Internet]. 2021 [cited 21 March 2023]. Available from: www.mydr.com.au/respiratoryhealth/chesty-coughs/
 Bisolvon Chesty Forte Liquid CMI June 2021. Available from: https://bisolvon.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Chesty-Forte-CMI-June2021.pdf
 Cough [Internet]. Healthdirect.gov.au. 2021 [cited 22 March 2021]. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/cough#doctor
 Chest infections | betterhealth.vic.gov.au [Internet]. 2021 [cited 21 March 2022]. Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/chest-infections
 8 Tips for Nighttime Cough Relief [Internet]. WebMD. 2021 [cited 22 March 2021]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/nighttime-relief
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