Wet Cough: Causes, Symptoms & How to Treat it

"If you have had your cough for longer than two weeks, it’s recommended to see your physician to rule out any serious conditions"

Also known as a productive cough, a wet cough is a cough that is accompanied by mucus, or phlegm. If you have a wet cough, you may hear a rattling or wheezing sound in your chest or throat. You may even feel like there’s something stuck in your throat. There are many different causes for wet coughs and a variety of ways to find some relief. Find out how to distinguish a wet cough from a dry cough, what causes a wet cough, and treatment methods to try if you have one.

What is a Wet Cough? 

A wet cough occurs when fluid in the airways triggers the coughing reflex. It is your body’s way of protecting your lungs from irritants like mucus and phlegm and is often a sign of a cold or flu. Unlike a dry cough, in which no fluid is present, a wet cough produces phlegm that you may even cough up into your mouth. If you’re not sure what kind of cough you have, the easiest way to distinguish a wet cough from a dry cough is the presence of mucus.

Symptoms of a Wet Cough

Aside from the presence of phlegm, other common symptoms of a wet cough include:

  • Bubbling, crackling, or rattling sounds when coughing or breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Salty taste in the mouth
  • White, yellow, green, or pink-tinged phlegm
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue

If your wet cough is a result of a cold or flu, it may also be accompanied by other common cold/flu symptoms like stuffy nose, body aches, sore throat, headaches, and fever.

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Wet Cough Causes 

A wet cough is often the result of a respiratory infection like the common cold or the flu. In these cases, the wet cough is often accompanied by other symptoms. These viruses typically clear without the need for antibiotics. But there are a variety of reasons for a wet cough and in some cases extra attention is needed. 


Bronchitis is an infection caused by inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the main passages that carry air into your lungs. There are two types of bronchitis: acute, which is usually brought on by a virus, and chronic, which can be caused by smoking. Bronchitis may start off as a dry cough, but gradually develop into a wet cough.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition involving constriction of the airways and difficulty or discomfort in breathing. The disease may damage both your lungs as well as the tubes that bring air into your lungs. Studies show that smoking is the top cause of COPD.1


Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that is caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Though it can affect anyone, young children and older adults are more at risk of developing pneumonia. When a person has pneumonia, their air sacs fill up with fluid or pus resulting in a wet cough. The condition could be mild or life-threatening and requires medical care.


People with asthma may develop a dry or a wet cough. A wet cough may indicate inflamed airways, which can be relieved with the help of an inhaler. A wet cough can also be accompanied by wheezing and breathlessness. To distinguish an asthmatic wet cough from one caused by a cold or flu, you should assess your other symptoms. If you are also suffering from a fever, night sweats, weakness, or loss of appetite, you are likely not suffering from an asthmatic cough. 

Treating a Wet Cough: How to Know if it’s Serious

If you have had your cough for longer than two weeks, it’s recommended to see your physician to rule out any serious conditions. You should also call a doctor if you are having trouble breathing, coughing up blood, or running a high fever. If your cough is caused by a bacterial infection, your physician should prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection.

But since wet coughs are commonly associated with viral infections, some home remedies can help. These include: 

  • Honey: Research shows that taking honey before bed can help reduce both cough frequency and intensity while aiding sleep.2 But be sure to avoid honey in children under one because of the risk of botulism.
  • Humidifier: Warm and moist air can help relieve a wet cough by loosening mucus in the airway and making it easier to clear. If you do not have a humidifier, try taking a steamy shower or holding your head over a bowl of hot water to breathe in the steam.
  • Vitamins: Boosting your immune system can help your body fight your infection faster and calm your wet cough. Load up on vitamins C, D, B6, and zinc or eat foods high in vitamins and minerals to support immune function.
  • Hydrate: Staying hydrated helps thin out your mucus, making it easier to expel.  It also keeps your throat from becoming inflamed and supports your immune system.
  • Supplements: N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a supplement that comes from the amino acid L-cysteine. Studies show that NAC can significantly ease symptoms in people with chronic bronchitis by reducing mucus in the airways.3 

Though a wet cough caused by a virus will typically clear up on its own over time, taking a medication like Brillia’s Cough Control can help speed up recovery. Unlike most over-the-counter cough medicines that are laden with harsh chemicals, Cough Control is an all-in-one cough suppressant and antihistamine made with unique antibody ingredients. These antibodies target the macromolecules in your system that help respond to illnesses without causing harmful side effects.

Along with reducing inflammation and calming the cough reflex, Cough Control also alleviates the stress that coughing places on the body without compromising your immune system. Clinically proven to reduce the frequency and severity of both wet and dry coughs, Cough Control will not make you groggy, upset your stomach, or interfere with any other medications you may be taking. 

Learn more about how Cough Control works and consider pairing with Brillia’s Cold-Flu Recovery for multi-symptom relief.

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References: 1https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/copd, 2https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article-abstract/130/3/465/30142/Effect-of-Honey-on-Nocturnal-Cough-and-Sleep?redirectedFrom=fulltext, 3https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322394#how-to-prevent-a-cold

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