Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cough, cough, cough...

Well, it was bound to happen- can't blog about the flu twice and not end up with it, right? Did I get it from our daughters? Doubtful, with the time frame. The incubation period for H1N1 is 1-7 days, typically in the first 4 days. But we're exposed at work (obviously, they come to see us!), the grocery store, and everywhere else. And yes, I wash my hands obsessively! How bad was my case? It's all relative, of course, but I would say "moderate" as I was wiped out in bed for 3 days with 102* fever, headache, body aches, sore throat and the COUGH from BEYOND!! Unfortunately the timing was such that I was speaking at the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) the week following my illness, and though the fever was long gone, the cough only got WORSE! Of course, since I was surrounded with over 4000 other physicians, I was privy to many opinions and suggestions, and I'll tell you, I tried them ALL (with thanks to my peers, especially for the unique home-made concoctions, although sadly, nothing was a miracle cure that I can pass on to you.)
So, what do you do with a cough that wont go away? This is the point of today's blog. "Cough" makes the top ten list every year for reasons to visit your doctor. After many upper respiratory viruses, coughs will linger... for up to SIX weeks! A cough does NOT mean you definitely need an antibiotic- in fact, typically, you do NOT. However, a cough that is not managed with over the counter medicines should be addressed by your physician. Coughing all day long at school or work (or keeping up your spouse with coughing all night) is NOT a good plan!
What can your doctor do? First of all, they do need to rule out any secondary infection such as a pneumonia. More commonly, you may have developed some over-reactive airways and may benefit from some inhalers or other asthma-style of medicines. A prescription cough syrup used at night may help with the nighttime exacerbations, and your doctor can remind you of some traditional home remedies such as cool mist humidifiers that may help. Finally, sometimes a cough comes from other sources, such as acid reflux or sinus drainage, which require different treatments.
BOTTOM LINE: See your doctor to evaluate coughs that get worse after a respiratory illness, or that wont go away- don't expect antibiotics, but know there are other treatment options!!

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