The weather’s cold, the days are short, and the cold and flu viruses are running rampant. It’s likely that sometime this season, you’ll find yourself with a bit of a cough. Coughing is the body’s way of trying to clear your airways. It’s a natural occurrence and is rarely the sign of anything serious. The cause of a cough varies widely and so do the treatments, but it’s important to recognize that in rare cases, a cough could be an indicator of a much more serious condition.
What Causes a Cough?
Short-term coughs can be a sign of a wide variety of illnesses, from the common cold to an upper or lower respiratory infection, asthma or even an allergy. Most coughs clear up in a few weeks on their own; however, some coughs just don’t seem to go away. Long-term or persistent coughs could be indicative of illnesses such as postnasal drip, heartburn or a serious respiratory infection like chronic bronchitis.
When Should I Call a Doctor?
The vast majority of coughs will clear up on their own within a few weeks; however, if the cough persists longer than three weeks, is really severe or gets progressively worse, you should seek medical attention right away. Signs that the cough has worsened include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, swelling in your neck or possibly coughing up blood. If you experience a worrying symptom, talking with a doctor is advisable. It is rare, but a persistent cough can be a sign of serious conditions such as lung cancer, heart failure, a clot in your lungs or even cardiovascular disease.
How Can I get Rid of a Cough?
Most coughs are a result of a virus, meaning antibiotics will not likely help you feel better. For serious cases, doctors may prescribe medications or treatments that are specific to your case, such as an inhaler or a lifestyle change. However, for most cases, there aren’t many actual “cures.” Instead, many people choose to focus on treatments that can help them feel better while the cough runs its course.
The obvious thing to do is to drink plenty of fluids and take some time to rest and let your body recover naturally. At night, you can help your body settle down for sleep by trying treatments such as using vapor rub, drinking warm green tea with honey or taking over-the-counter cough medications. Just be sure to not mix cold medicines as they could have an adverse effect when combined. You can also try sleeping with your head inclined to help keep your airways clear and mucus-free.
Finally, be wary of dry, wintery air. Coughs occur most often in the wintertime when the air is driest which can worsen your cough. Fortunately, using a humidifier can help put moisture back in the air and soothe your irritated throat. Just be sure to clean your humidifier regularly, and use distilled water for best results.
It’s important to keep tabs on your health, especially during cold and flu season. To get the treatment you need, skip the lengthy doctor’s-office wait and visit American Family Care instead. At AFC Urgent Care, patients are seen promptly and no scheduling is needed.