The unlikely ingredient we should be using when we first get a cough

We may be some weeks away from cold season yet, but it definitely pays to be prepared when it comes to a nasty autumn cough.

And new guidelines from health officials suggest we should be turning to one perhaps unexpected ingredient, when we notice the first signs of a tickly throat.

According to newly proposed guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE), honey could be the best first port of call for soothing a cough.

It's long been considered as more of a cosy treat when you're ill than an actual treatment, but it seems a simple hot water with lemon could do the world of good when it comes to helping soothe a cough, officials say.

They also suggested using over-the-counter medicines, like cough syrup, in the early stages of a cough, instead of antibiotics, which many people often turn to.

These recommendations follow findings that antibiotics could be being overused and overprescribed by doctors when they're not needed - sparking a fear of antibiotic resistance.

Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director at PHE, said, "Antibiotic resistance is a huge problem, and we need to take action now to reduce antibiotic use.

"These new guidelines will support GPs to reduce antibiotic prescriptions and we encourage patients to take their GP's advice about self-care."

MORE: How to stop coughing

Advice from the new guidelines suggested that patients turn to honey and over-the-counter medicines when they first detect a cough, instead of heading straight to their local doctor for medicine.

People are being advised to wait for symptoms to clear up on their own - only going to their GP if this does not happen.

However, most common coughs should disappear on their own within two-three weeks.

Honey is in fact considered to be a great cough suppressant. There is a wide range of evidence to suggest that it be very beneficial in soothing a tickly throat, particular for young children, who perhaps shouldn't be as exposed to strong medicine.

If you're suffering, another natural treatment is to try inhaling warm, humidified air, either from a humidifier or from a bowl of hot water, with a towel over your head.

Amy Hunt

Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on