Coughs & colds
This leaflet gives some tips on what to do, and the symptoms to look out for which may indicate a more serious illness.
Most coughs are caused by viral infections, and usually soon go. Viral infections commonly affect the throat (larynx), or the main airway (trachea), or the airways going into the lungs (bronchi). These infections are sometimes called laryngitis, tracheitis, or bronchitis. Cough is often the main symptom.
A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus and irritants such as dust or smoke. Coughs may be dry or chesty (see below) and most coughs clear up within three weeks. Watch the video on this page as a GP describes the most common causes for coughs and how they can be treated.
NHS Choices: Coping with colds and flu
Most of us will have a cold this autumn or winter and some of us will have flu. Here's how to look after yourself if these viruses affect you.