11 May 2016

What's the difference between acute and chronic coughs?

Acute coughs are caused by the common cold and usually go away in a few weeks while a chronic cough can be caused by medical conditions such as allergies and asthma.


Chronic coughs – last a longer time or until the cause has been identified and removed or managed.

Persistent or chronic coughs may be caused by underlying medical problems such as allergies, asthma, or acid reflux, smoking or by the medications you take, e.g. blood pressure tablets or some allergy medication.

To alleviate coughs, you need to treat the underlying problem.1

 Home remedies for cough include:1

  • Drinking fluids to stay hydrated
  • Sucking lozenges that numbs the back of the throat, and that will tend to decrease the cough reflex.
  • A hot drink like tea with honey can soothe the throat.
  • Steam by taking hot showers or use a humidifier to help loosen the phlegm in the chest and the secretions in the nose.
  • Avoid irritants in the air – the main one being smoke. But room sanitisers and perfumes may irritate and cause allergies.
  • Take cough medication. There are many cough mixtures available and a pharmacist will suggest the best option for your cough. 

Adcock Ingram supplies EXPIGEN® COUGH Syrup an expectorant cough mixture for the alleviation of cough. It contains sorbimacrogol laurate and ammonium chloride which act as expectorants. These thin out the mucus so one can cough it up more easily. It can be taken by the whole family from age three.2 EXPIGEN® COUGH Syrup is the cough mixture most recommended by gynaecologists.3

A persistent cough may be a sign of a serious condition. If cough persists for more than one week, tends to recur or is accompanied by high fever, rash or persistent headache, consult a doctor.1

S0 Expigen® Cough. Each 10 ml syrup contains sorbimacrogol laurate 300 36,33 mg; ammonium chloride 34 mg. Reg. No. E/10.1/21. Trademark under licence from Kabi Pharmacia AB, Uppsala.

For full prescribing information refer to the package insert approved by the medicines regulatory authority. 10261448 03/2016. Adcock Ingram Limited. Reg. No. 1949/034385/06. Private Bag X69, Bryanston, 2021, South Africa. Tel. +27 11 635 0000.


1. Broder J. Cough Relief: How to Lose a Bad Cough. WebMD [2009]. Available online at URL: Accessed 23 February 2016 2. Expigen® Cough Syrup approved package insert, December 1987. 3. Impact Rx. December 2015


Ask the Expert

Cough Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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