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Coughs - Useful facts

 

 

Types of cough

 

Coughing may be acute, lasting less than three weeks, or chronic, when it may go on more than eight weeks. Cough can also be dry or productive of sputum (phlegm).

 

Frequency

 

Most adults experiance episodes of coughing between two and five times a year, and about one in five people suffer from coughs during winter months.

 

Rarely serious

 

Although coughing often impairs people's quality of life, it is rarely due to serious causes and usually gets better by iteslf.

 

What causes coughs?

 

Acute coughing is most commonly caused by a viral upper respiratory infection (URTI).

 

Chronic coughing can sometimes suggest an underlying lung problem, but may also be caused by conditions outside the lung, such as heartburn (gastric reflux).

 

Cough me also result from taking drugs (check the label), ashtma, environmental factors (dusty workplaces, for example), and reflux of stomach contents into your gullet.

 

What can I do myself to get better - now and in the future?

 

Try not to cough

 

Although this may sound easier said than done, you may be able to cough less often by trying hard not to cough, because our desire to cough can be affected by our brains.

 

Home remedies

 

Try simple remedies, such as 'honey and lemon' - just add freshly squeezed juice from one lemon and a teaspoon of honey to a mug of hot water. Drink at least 6 to 9 glasses in a day and suck lozengers.

 

Stop smoking

 

Smoking is one of the commonest reasons for chronic cough. Stopping smoking - or at least smoking less - not only greatly improves your coughing, but also benefits your health in many other ways (think heart attack, stroke and lung cancer).

 

Cough mixtures

 

There is little evidence to say whether over the counter medicines are effective for relieving cough symptons. Despite the lack or research evidence, you may still get some subjective benefit from over the counter preparations - speak to our pharmacist.

 

Paracetamol

 

Paracetamol can help with relieving symptons that may accompany a cough, such as a sore throat, fevers, and not feeling well.

 

What can I expect to happen?

 

Coughs are usually harmless

 

Although cough can be distressing (both for your self and others living or working with you), acute coughs are almost always harmless and usually improve within three weeks.

 

No need for antibiotics

 

You don't normally need antibiotics, which may do more harm than good.

 

Duration

 

You may easily suffer a dry cough for 3 to 4 weeks after an infection has settled.

 

No need for investigations

 

You don't normally need any investigations if you suffer from acute cough.

 

When should I seek medical help?

 

Seek medical advice immediately if you feel more unwell then you'd expect, if you've inhaled a foreign body, or if you notice any of the warning symptons below, which in rare cases can suggest a more serious underlying cause:

 

  • You cough up blood for no obvious reason.
  • Your cough lasts for more than three to four weeks.
  • In addition, you haver chest and/or shoulder pain.
  • You also find it difficult to breathe.
  • You're also losing weight for no apparent reason over a period of six weeks or more.
  • Your voice becomes hoarse
  • The ends of your fingers take on a 'club-like' shape.
  • You notice new swellings anywhere in the neck or above your collarbones.

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