Coughs aren't usually serious and can be treated by a pharmacist. Your pharmacist may recommend that you contact your GP practice if required.
Most coughs clear up within three weeks and don't require any treatment. For more persistent coughs, it's a good idea to see your pharmacist first so they can investigate the symptoms. There may be times your pharmacist will advise you see your GP, such as when:
you've had a cough for more than three weeks
your cough is particularly severe
you cough up blood or 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.
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. You can look after yourself at home by resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking 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.