you experience shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or chest pain
you have any other worrying symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, a persistent change in your voice, or lumps or swellings in your neck
If your GP is unsure what's causing your cough, they may refer you to a hospital specialist for an assessment. They may also request some tests, such as a chest X-ray, allergy tests, breathing tests, and an analysis of a sample of your phlegm to check for infection.
Coughs in children often have similar causes to those mentioned above. For example, respiratory tract infections, asthma and GORD can all affect children.
Causes of coughs that are more common in children than adults include:
bronchiolitis – a mild respiratory tract infection that usually causes cold-like symptoms
croup – this causes a distinctive barking cough and a harsh sound known as stridor when the child breathes in
whooping cough – look out for symptoms such as intense, hacking bouts of coughing, vomiting, and a 'whoop' sound with each sharp intake of breath after coughing
Occasionally, a persistent cough in a child can be a sign of a serious long-term condition, such as cystic fibrosis.
Treatment isn't always necessary for short-term coughs because it's likely to be a viral infection that will get better on its own within a few weeks.
drink plenty of fluids
take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
Cough medicines and remedies
Although some people find them helpful, medicines that claim to suppress your cough or stop you bringing up phlegm are not usually recommended. This is because there's little evidence to suggest they're any better than simple home remedies, and they're not suitable for everyone.