Updated 15 August 2018

How to prevent coughing

An ongoing coughing is an indication that something could be wrong and shouldn’t be ignored.

A cough is generally a good thing: your lungs are simply trying to get rid of something that shouldn’t be there. However, ongoing coughing is an indication that something could be wrong. This shouldn’t be ignored. 

If you have to cough, it’s important to apply good “cough hygiene”: cover your mouth and cough into your sleeve or a tissue. This is vital in a country such as South Africa where we have a high TB rate.

Remember, TB is spread by coughing TB-infected droplets of sputum into the air. No matter what the cause, always be sure to cover your mouth.

Reduce your risk of coughing by: 

  • Not smoking, or quitting if you do.
  • Choosing to work in an environment that doesn’t irritate your airways.
  • Keeping rooms well ventilated.
  • Managing your allergies with an antihistamine and/or nasal spray, if necessary.
  • Keeping your asthma under control with both reliever and controller therapy (if applicable).
  • Avoiding your asthma/allergy triggers as far as possible.
  • Washing your hands regularly to prevent the transmission of germs.
  • Avoiding individuals who have respiratory illnesses (including the cold and flu).
  • Keeping your immune system healthy by following a healthy diet, exercising regularly and resting enough.

Read more:
Types of cough

Reviewed by Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, Head of the Lung Clinical Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. MBChB, MRCP(UK), Dip HIV(Man), MMED, FCP(SA), Cert Pulm(SA), PhD. February 2018. 


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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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