Whether it’s during a meeting, while you’re asleep or when you’re trying to pay attention to your favourite show – coughing is annoying. But it does have an important role to play. There are several different types of common cough, including chesty and dry coughs, both with differing symptoms. But first let’s explore what a cough is.

What is a cough?

Coughing is a natural reflex action to irritation in your throat or airways, with the purpose of clearing them of mucus or any irritants.

This irritation can be caused by different things. Breathing in dust or smoke can cause coughing, and so can short-term infections like colds or long-term cough, which can be due to other health conditions such as asthma or COPD where it is important to consult a healthcare professional.

The type of cough you have can be determined by how it sounds and feels, so here’s a handy guide on the different types of cough and how to help treat them.

Short term or common cough may be described as chesty or dry, sometimes called productive or non-productive. A cough may start dry and become chesty as a cold progresses.

Chesty cough

As the name suggests, a chesty cough is one that produces thick mucus.

This mucus is made by your lungs and respiratory system every day to help moisturise and protect it from irritants, but when your airways are irritated, this production of mucus can become excessive. Then, your coughing reflex kicks in to try to clear the congestion.

Chesty cough symptoms

The symptoms of a chesty cough can include:

  • Feeling as if your cough is wet
  • Coughing up mucus or phlegm

Dry cough

Dry coughs are sometimes known as tickly coughs because of that dry, scratchy feeling in your throat caused by inflammation. Dry coughs can have similar underlying causes to chesty coughs, but unlike chesty coughs, they do not produce excessive mucus.

Dry cough Symptoms

As such, dry cough symptoms include:

  • A tickly feeling in your throat
  • Hacking coughs
  • No mucus or phlegm being produced

Coughs in children

It can be especially distressing as a parent if a cough is causing your little one upset or discomfort. While children experience dry coughs and chesty coughs that usually clear up in 1-2 weeks, there are others that may need further treatment. If your child has had a cough for longer than 3 weeks or you are concerned about your child’s cough, speak to a doctor.

Cough Remedies

For most coughs that don’t require further treatment, there are some simple remedies you can try to help ease the symptoms:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Try to keep your head elevated to ease discomfort
  • A steamy bath or shower can help to loosen congestion for chesty coughs
  • Use paracetamol to help with fever and pain.
  • Try Zarbee’s Cough & Sore Throat Syrups, available for adults and children, which contain honey, ivy leaf, and glycerol that calm the urge to cough and soothe & protect sore throats.

When to contact a GP

While coughs aren’t usually anything to worry about, it’s recommended by the NHS that you should speak to a GP or healthcare professional if any of the following applies.

For Children:

  • If your child has had a cough that has lasted longer than 3 weeks.
  • If your child’s temperature is very high, or they feel hot and shivery, they may have a chest infection.
  • If a cough continues for a long time, especially if it’s worse at night or brought on by your child running about, it could be a sign of asthma.
  • If your child is finding it hard to breathe, go to A&E or call 999 immediately as they’ll need urgent treatment in hospital.

For Adults:

  • If you’ve had had a cough for more than 3 weeks (persistent cough)
  • If your cough is very bad or quickly gets worse – for example, you have a hacking cough or cannot stop coughing
  • If you feel very unwell
  • If you have chest pain
  • If you are losing weight for no reason
  • If the side of your neck feels swollen or painful (swollen glands)
  • If you find it hard to breathe
  • If you have a weakened immune system, for example because of chemotherapy or diabetes
  • See a GP urgently if you are coughing up blood.

Whether you or your child have a dry or chesty cough, knowing the symptoms that could be a sign of a more serious health condition mean you can appropriately contact a healthcare professional when necessary.


To relieve any common cough, dry or chesty, there’s Zarbee’s® Adult Cough & Sore Throat syrup, or for little one’s, Zarbee’s® Children’s Cough & Sore Throat syrup


Immune Support

9 ways to support your immune system


7 ways to support your family’s health & wellbeing