Common causes for chesty coughs

We all cough, it is perfectly normal. Coughing is a reflex action that your body uses to help keep your airways clear – this includes your nose, throat, windpipe, and lungs. So coughing can help protect your airways from irritants, such as accidentally inhaling bits of food or breathing in cigarette smoke. 

But you know that deep, hacking cough when you feel like you will cough up a lung? The kind that comes with a heavy, congested feeling in your chest and sometimes even produces some nasty gunk? That’s a chesty cough – this type of cough is your body’s way of trying to clear mucus out from your lower airways. A chesty cough can really slow you down and get in the way of doing what you love.

What causes a chesty cough? Chesty coughs develop when your body produces more mucus than normal. This often happens when you get a respiratory tract infection – you know, those pesky illnesses that cause the common cold and flu. These infections are usually caused by viruses that make your airways inflamed and increases the production of mucus. This can lead to a chesty cough as your body tries to get rid of all that extra mucus from your chest. This is the reason why a chesty cough is often referred to as a ‘productive’ cough.

Treatment options for chesty coughs

When you’re dealing with a chesty cough, it’s nice to know that you can find relief from your symptoms with cough medicines, helping you get on with your day. For chesty coughs, look for products that help break down and loosen the mucus in your airways, making it easier to cough the mucus up and clear it out. Two key ingredients to look out for are called mucolytics and expectorants. Mucolytics work to break down and soften the mucus, while expectorants loosen the mucus, making it easier to cough up.

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Natural remedies for chesty coughs

Chesty coughs associated with respiratory tract infections can take a few weeks to clear up, so it’s important to take care of yourself while you get back to normal. Here’s some things you can try to help relieve your symptoms in the meantime:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink adequate amounts of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Take a hot shower or bath – the steam may help loosen your mucus
  • Consider hot drinks with honey to help soothe your throat and cough

While most chesty coughs clear up on their own within 3 weeks, you should see a pharmacist or medical professional if:

  • Your cough last more than 3 weeks
  • Your cough gets worse or is troubling you
  • You have difficulty breathing, cough up blood or experience chest pain
  • You have any other worrying symptoms

Chesty cough FAQs


You should see a doctor if your cough lasts for more than 3 weeks or gets worse, or if you experience any troubling symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, or coughing up blood.


Consider taking a cough medicine that contains a mucolytic (breaks down mucus) or an expectorant (loosens mucus) to help your body clear out the excess mucus in your airways.


A chesty, or ‘productive’, cough is your body’s way of trying to clear excess mucus from your lower airways.


Try propping your head up with an extra pillow or raising the head of your bed to help prevent mucus pooling in the back of your throat which can trigger coughing.



Mucolytics such as bromhexine are considered suitable to use during pregnancy. However, always speak with your doctor to make sure a product is suitable for you.