What doctors say*

* Official guidelines from NICE, NHS and other medical authorities.

Should antibiotics be used? >

Not generally suitable for antibiotics. Make an exception if complications, or higher risk of complications.

Likely duration if untreated >

5-25 days.

Conventional self-care advice (NICE) >

  • try honey (in over 1s)
  • the herbal medicine pelargonium (in over 12s)
  • cough medicines containing cough suppressants, except codeine (in over 12s)
  • cough medicines containing the expectorant guaifenesin (in over 12s)

Opportunities for antibiotic alternatives >

Before prescription. At any stage unless doctor makes exception.

With prescription. Most home remedies are compatible with antibiotic prescription: do however check with your doctor to be sure.

Note: there are surprisingly few remedies – even prescription medicines – with independent evidence for effectiveness in relieving coughs. It is however worth trying remedies on the Common cold page. Cough is often a complication of this infection and may be relieved by some of the remedies on that page. Variations on the home remedy below are often reported as being helpful.

Traditional home remedies worth trying


Knowledge and best practice in the health field are constantly changing.  Each person and illness is also unique and no general information can anticipate every circumstance, nor be appropriate for every reader. Each individual case is best assessed in person by a qualified health advisor.

In the case of remedies or other products, users should read the label carefully for detailed information about safe use and in the case of natural products should choose responsible manufacturers with independently assured quality standards and safety monitoring procedures.

To the fullest extent of the law, neither the College of Medicine nor the authors, contributors or editors, assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions or ideas contained in the materials herein.