1. Try an expectorant.
Over-the-counter (OTC) cough medications with an expectorant such as guaifenesin work by clearing the mucus and other secretions of a productive cough so that you can breathe easier.
2. Take a cough suppressant.
OTC cough remedies often contain dextromethorphan, which may provide temporary relief from a dry, hacking cough.
3. Sip green tea.
Hot, soothing tea has been a cough remedy for hundreds of years. Antioxidant-rich green tea may also help reduce upper respiratory infection symptoms. Add honey for an extra boost (see nighttime tips, below).
4. Stay hydrated.
Getting enough fluids is always a good idea, and even more so when you have a cold, as staying hydrated helps to thin mucus and make coughs more productive, and helps fight infection. Water is ideal, but soothing chicken soup counts, too.
5. Suck on lozenges.
These cough drops are good for soothing a scratchy, dry throat and reducing the urge to cough. No lozenges? A hard candy also provides moisture and can help relieve a dry cough.
6. Have some honey.
Honey has been used as a home cough remedy for ages, and a recent study showed that giving honey to children reduced their coughing at night. In fact, honey worked as well as medications containing dextromethorphan. However, honey isn’t suggested for children younger than 1 year because of possible impurities and the risk of infant botulism.
7. Elevate your head while you rest.
Sleeping with your head elevated can reduce coughing from post-nasal drip. Sleeping this way also helps alleviate GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which can cause coughing.
8. Apply vapor rub.
The same menthol-scented balm your mother or grandmother rubbed on your chest when you were a kid can help clear nasal passages, which can help relieve nighttime coughing. It still works great on your kids as well.
9. Switch to a nighttime cough formula.
These versions of both expectorants and cough suppressants include an antihistamine, which would make you drowsy at work — taken at night, however, they will help you stop coughing to get the sleep you need to feel better in the morning.
10. Use steam cautiously.
Dry airways can make your cough worse. You may find relief from taking a shower or bath before bed — or just sitting in a steamy bathroom. Edelman has one caution: “If you have asthma, steam can actually make a cough worse.”
11. Watch the humidity.
Humidifiers can help coughs if the air is dry. But too much moisture in your bedroom can keep you coughing, too. Dust mites and mold — both common allergens — thrive in damp air. Edelman suggests that you keep humidity levels at 40% to 50%. To measure humidity, pick up an inexpensive device — a hygrometer — at your hardware store.
12. Prepare your bedside.
In case you start coughing in the night, have everything you need by your bed — a glass of water, cough medicine or drops, and anything else that seems to help. The sooner you can stop a coughing fit, the better. Continually coughing irritates your airways, which can make your nighttime problem last longer.
13. Keep bedding clean.
If you have a cough and are prone to allergies, focus on your bed. Dust mites — tiny creatures that eat dead flakes of skin and lurk in bedding — are a common allergy trigger. To get rid of them, each week wash all your bedding in hot water, Edelman says.
14. Consider medicine.
Over-the-counter cough medicines can help in two ways. An expectorant can help loosen mucus. A cough suppressant blocks the cough reflex and reduces the urge to cough. Look carefully at the label to make sure you get the medicine that’s right for your cough. Ask your pharmacist or doctor if you’re not sure.
15. See your doctor.
If you’ve had a nighttime cough for longer than 7 days, it’s time to check in with your doctor. It may take some time, but together, you and your doctor can figure out the cause — and make your nights peaceful again.