Here we discuss the appropriate treatments for wet versus dry coughs.
Steps for managing coughs
- Ensure the cause of the cough is not one that requires referral to a physician
- Identify whether the patient’s cough is productive (wet) or non-productive (dry)
- Increase patient awareness of how to minimise transmission of cold and flu viruses to other people
- Educate them on ways to alleviate their cold and flu symptoms
- Along with appropriate advice, recommend or provide treatments to suit the individual needs of your patient
Wet and dry coughs are treated by different active ingredients
Expectorants such as guaifenesin relieve a wet or productive cough with mucoactive action. Also known as protussives, these medications:
- Reduce the elasticity and viscosity of mucus
- Facilitate mucus transport and elimination when coughing
Coughs are not sufficiently relieved with over-the-counter cough medication
Upper respiratory tract infection is not the only cause of coughs. Other conditions, including pneumonia, lung cancer, and tuberculosis can also present with a cough, and should be referred to a doctor if suspected.4
Cough management: in summary
After appropriate diagnosis of cold or flu as the underlying cause of your patient’s cough, they may be recommended an expectorant or antitussive depending on whether their cough is predominantly productive or non-productive.