How to remedy a cough depends on what's causing it

Story highlights

  • Coughing is your body's way of expelling an irritant
  • To eliminate the cough, help your body rid itself of the invader

(CNN)Is a cough making your life miserable? Don't blame your body; coughing is the only way your lungs can expel an irritant. The key is to figure what's causing it and then to get your lungs the help they need.

A cough that appears suddenly is usually triggered by an infectious disease, such as cold or flu.
    "A majority of coughs actually resolve with just rest and home remedies," said Dr. Sharon Horesh Bergquist, an internist at the Emory Clinic in Atlanta. "So that's the place to start unless there are warning signs of something more serious."
      Red flags include coughing up blood-tinged phlegm, a great deal of phlegm or phlegm that is turning thicker and darker; fever; shortness of breath; and wheezing.