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Please note prescriptions are only available in Canada and given at the doctor's discretion.

Cough treatment, diagnosis & prescriptions

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Can I talk to a doctor on Maple about my cough?

Yes, you can. The doctor will want to discuss your current condition, how long you’ve been experiencing a cough, and any other symptoms you may have alongside your cough.

When over-the-counter cough treatments aren’t helping, the doctor may suggest a physical examination to help narrow down the underlying cause of your cough.

In some cases, the doctor may also suggest additional testing be done, in order to provide you with a clear cough diagnosis.

Can I get a prescription on Maple?

Yes, our physicians can prescribe cough medications online during your consultation. Once you accept a prescription for your cough, you’ll have the option to pick it up from any pharmacy or to have it delivered right to your door at no additional cost.

You can visit our How it Works page to learn more.

What is a cough?

Coughing is your body’s way of reacting when something is irritating your throat or airways. Occasional coughs are normal, and a healthy way for the body to clear irritants and secretions from your lungs.
Coughing is your body’s reflex to stimuli (mechanical or chemical) in your upper and lower airways, pericardium, diaphragm, or stomach. Mechanical receptors are triggered by touch or displacement. Chemical receptors react to hot or cold acids, capsaicin-like compounds, and certain other chemicals.

Often, coughs are signs or symptoms of other underlying conditions. Everyone will experience a cough at some point in their lives, and many conditions that cause coughs will pass on their own.

If a cough becomes severe, lasts for more than two weeks, or brings up bloody or discolored mucus, it could be an indication of a more serious underlying condition.

Chronic coughs are considered any cough that lasts for eight weeks or longer in adults, or four weeks in children.

What are the associated symptoms of a cough?

Coughs are signs or symptoms of other underlying conditions, so they can be an indicator for a wide range of conditions. However, there are other symptoms that regularly accompany coughing. Some of these include:

  • Sinus congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing up clear, white, yellow, or green mucus
  • Headache
  • Chest soreness
  • Frequently clearing throat
  • Heartburn
  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling liquid running down the back of the throat (also called postnasal drip)

In rare cases, this could also result in coughing up blood. This would be an indication of a potentially serious underlying condition. If this occurs, you should seek medical attention.

What causes a cough?

Frequently, coughs are signs or symptoms of other underlying conditions. There are many different types of conditions that can cause a cough, such as:

  • Infections (colds and flus)
  • Asthma
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Postnasal drip
  • Allergies
  • Non-asthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis (inflammation in the airways, not caused by asthma)
  • Lung cancer
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Irritants in the air (chemical or cosmetic)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Medications (ACE inhibitors)
How is a cough diagnosed?

In most cases, the doctor will be able to offer a cough diagnosis by discussing your condition, your symptoms, and doing a physical exam.

In some cases, the doctor may suggest additional testing be done in order to provide a clear diagnosis for your cough.

This could include imaging tests like chest X-rays or CT scans, or tests to check your lungs’ functionality.

Rarely, when the doctor is unable to determine the underlying cause of your cough, they may suggest a bronchoscopy or rhinoscopy for further evaluation.

How is a cough treated?

There are a number of home self-care remedies you can try to help reduce your cough symptoms. These are helpful if you believe your cough is caused by a condition that will pass on its own (cough, flu, etc.)

Some of these self-care cough treatments include:

  • Taking a teaspoon of honey (may help loosen mucus to be coughed up, thus helping to clear airways)
  • Sucking on cough drops or hard candies to soothe sore throats or dry coughs
  • Drinking lots of fluids (helps to thin mucus in the throat)
  • Use a humidifier or take a steamy shower to moisturize the air
  • Avoid irritants (like tobacco smoke or known allergens)
  • Avoid foods that increase reflux (colas, red wine, acidic drinks, chocolate, and fatty foods)
  • Avoid eating three hours prior to lying down
    Elevate the head of the bed six to eight inches

If the cause of your cough is still unknown after a thorough examination, cough treatments may involve over-the-counter medications like cough suppressants to reduce symptoms. This should help you manage your cough, while the doctor continues trying to identify the underlying cause of your cough.

Over-the-counter medications shouldn’t be used on children under the age of six (ideally 12), except for fever reducers and pain relievers.

Once the doctor has provided a clear cause of your cough, they’ll be able to suggest appropriate cough treatments. This could include prescription cough medications, such as:

  • Antibiotics
  • Acid blockers
  • Inhaled asthma medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Corticosteroids
  • Decongestants

The most important thing to remember with cough treatments is that coughs are signs or symptoms of other conditions. Because of this, in many cases, you may need to treat the underlying condition causing your cough to reduce your cough symptoms.

When to see a doctor for a cough?

It’s a good idea to try self-care home remedies if your cough is new, mild, or believed to be caused by a condition that will pass on its own (cold or flu).

However, if your cough has become persistent, severe or is worsening, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor.

The doctor will be able to recommend testing that will provide you with a clear cough diagnosis. As well, the doctor can recommend appropriate cough treatments to help reduce your symptoms, including any necessary prescription cough medications.

What is Maple?

With Maple, you can start talking to a doctor about your symptoms in a matter of minutes. We’re a healthcare app for fast, convenient 24/7 access to Canadian doctors.

You simply log in, tap a button to request a consultation, and we’ll immediately connect you to a doctor via live chat or video. You can visit our How it Works page to learn more.

Our doctors can assess symptoms, and provide treatment, including prescriptions as necessary.

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