Why Your Cough May Not Be Improving  

Do you still have a stubborn cough? It can be very frustrating, and can cost you time off work, etc. Here are some reasons why (and some painful-coughtips on what you can do) to help rid yourself of your STUBBORN cough!

Reason1: Irritated Airways (usually after a Cold or Flu)

After a cold (or other viral infection) your cough can hang around for weeks, sometimes for months, because viruses can cause your airways to become swollen and oversensitive. This can last long after the virus is gone, says Norman H. Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. Most cold symptoms usually go away after a couple of days, but if not . . . look at treating your swollen, oversensitive throat with over the counter medicine (such as ibuprofen) or alternative therapies (such as Manuka honey). In Walsh’s Pharmacy we have a range of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, as well as a few different alternative solutions to sore throats, including manuka honey. Manuka honey has been found to soothe the throat and help with the healing process, in part because of its anitmicrobial property (not shared by other honeys) called Unique Manuka Factor, or UMF for short. The amount of UMF specified on the label of a Manuka Honey jar indicates the the level of strength of antimicrobial properties of that particular jar of honey. UMF levels can range from 5 to 30. A rating of ’10’ or more is considered to be suitable for therapeutic medical use. The higher the UMF the more antibacterial effect. The anitbacterial properties will be damaged if you mix the honey with very hot or boiling water, and so it is best to take a small bit on the end of a spoon during the day (3 to 10 times a day) for maximum effect.

If the cough persists you should contact your doctor for a full check-up. Other avenues for a cough that just won’t go away, if there isn’t an underlying medical issue, are Homeopathy & Herbal medicines, but you would need to make an appointment with a licenced, registered Homeopath or Herbal practitioner.

Reason 2: Underlying Health Problems

Allergies and asthma are common causes of cough. A cold can even cause an asthma attack.

Acid reflux and obstructive sleep apnea can also cause a chronic cough. Fortunately, these conditions are treatable. See your doctor for diagnosis and treatment if you experience symptoms such as:

Acid reflux: Burping, Heartburn, Ongoing cough, Regurgitation

Obstructive sleep apnea: Insomnia, Loud snoring, Nighttime choking or gasping, Recurrent awakenings, Sleepiness during the day

Reason 3: Stress

Stress — chronic stress especially — can make colds last longer. To beat back a lingering cough, slow down and reduce stress while you’re sick. Pushing yourself too hard may just make you sicker. One way to relax is to rest more — aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.

Reason 4: Not Drinking Enough Fluids

When you have a cold or the flu, you need to drink a lot of fluids. Water, juice, and soup can help loosen mucus in your airways so you can cough it up and out. Alcohol and drinks with caffeine in them are not helpful choices because they can dehydrate you — the opposite of what you need when you’re sick. Another way to add moisture to your airways is by using a saline nasal spray.

Reason 5: Overusing OTC Nasal Decongestant Spray

Over-the-counter (OTC) nasal decongestant sprays (not saline sprays but sprays with medication in them) may help with a stuffy or runny nose. Don’t use them for more than 3 days, though. If you do, when you finally stop taking them, your symptoms may be worse — a rebound effect. Those excess sprays make your nasal membranes swell, which triggers more congestion, postnasal drip, and coughing.

Reason 6: Air That’s Too Dry or Too Moist

“Dry air — especially common in the winter — can irritate a cough,” Edelman says. On the other hand, cranking up the humidifier isn’t helpful, either. Moist air can be a trigger for asthma and encourage the growth of dust mites and mold, allergens that may start you hacking.

“People should aim for humidity levels of 40% to 50% in their homes, winter and summer,” Edelman says.

Reason 7: Bacterial Infection

Sometimes, a cold can leave behind an unwelcome parting gift. When your airways are raw and irritated after a cold, it’s easier for bacteria to invade. Bacteria can cause sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia. If you have a fever or pain along with your lingering cough, a bacterial infection could be the reason. See your doctor, as you may need to take an antibiotic.

Reason 8: Your Blood Pressure Medicine

Do you take medicine for high blood pressure? If so, that may be why your cough won’t quit. About 1 out of 5 people who take ACE inhibitors develop a chronic, dry cough as a side effect. If you have this side effect, talk to your doctor.

And Finally, If your cough isn’t getting better after a week, call your doctor. Together you can find out what’s causing your cough and make sure you get the right treatment.

Resources:

www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/manuka-honey-medicinal-usesReviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 17, 2012

www.webmd.com by R. Morgan Griffin, reviewed by Dr. Laura J. Martin