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​Cough is a common symptom of the flu which may take two to three weeks to cure. Symptoms can be relieved by drinking plenty of fluids.

A cough associated with a cold may be caused by acute bronchitis, brought on by the same viruses as a flu (common cold). Most cases of bronchitis happen when an infection inflames the mucous membranes of your airways.


​Bronchitis often comes with a blocked nose, sore throat and husky voice and actually start as a common cold. The cough is usually in the beginning dry and non-productive.  Over time you start to produce more and thicker phlegm. After the initial flu phase, bronchitis is not usually associated with a raised temperature or malaise. In some cases bronchitis can lead to pneumonia. You might have pneumonia, if the symptoms suddenly become worse again or you get a high temperature. The cause of a persistent cough may be underlaying sinusitis following a respiratory tract infection.

Persistent cough may be caused also by an allergen, cardiac insufficiency or reflux disease (gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD). Smoking may expose you to chronic viral bronchitis.


​Acute bronchitis is usually resolved in a couple of weeks. Cough medicines do not speed up healing, but they may add to your comfort and help you sleep. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral bronchitis infection.

Honey, eucalyptus oil or any other fluid moisturising the throat and larynx may ease the cough. Potential irritants (e.g. smoking, cold weather) should be avoided. The most important thing in cough self-care is to drink plenty of fluids to keep the mucous membranes moist, and it may also help to cough up sticky phlegm.

If you cough heavily when lying down, raising the head of your bed may help.

When should you seek medical advice?

​You should seek medical advice, if

  • you have a raised temperature (more than 38.0 C), shortness of breath, and your general health is deteriorating.
  • a raised temperature (more than 38.0 C) continues for more than a couple of days, breathing gets laborious or hurts, or you cough up blood.
  • your cough has already been better, but the symptoms suddenly become worse with a high temperature.
  • your cough is, or your think may be caused by, a foreign body in the respiratory tract.
  • Your cough is not better, or you continue to cough up phlegm after three weeks.
  • you have been in close contact with a person who has been ill with tuberculosis in the past few months

Do you think you might have a coronavirus infection?

The disease caused by coronavirus is a sudden respiratory tract infection. The symptoms are similar to common cold symptoms. Based on the symptoms only, it is impossible to say whether you have coronavirus infection or an infection caused by some other flu virus. You can assess the likelihood of an infection on Coronabot or Omaolo coronavirus symptom checker 

For more information on coronavirus, see Coronavirus (Covid-19) section on Infektiotalo (Infection Hub) website.

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The producers of the instruction

​​​​​Emergency care professionals have produced the instruction in collaboration with Terveyskirjasto.​


Updated  1.5.2021