It’s winter and just like cold weather and snow, a common winter visitor is some kind of cough. It most cases coughing is healthy. It is your body’s way of clearing your airways of mucus and irritants. For most of us we have just learned to live with a little coughing. The typical cause of a cough is a common cold and most coughs will resolve themselves without treatment in two to three weeks.
But the Mayo Clinic advises that you should see your doctor right away if you or your child are experiencing any of these accompanying symptoms:
- “Coughing up thick, greenish-yellow phlegm
- Experiencing a fever
- Experiencing shortness of breath
- Experiencing fainting
- Experiencing ankle swelling or weight loss
Seek Emergency Care For Your Cough If [You Are]:
- Choking or vomiting
- Having difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Coughing up bloody or pink-tinged phlegm
- Experiencing chest pain”
“As you get older, it’s more likely a winter cough is something bad,” says David Beuther, M.D., chief medical information officer at National Jewish Health in Denver, a leading respiratory hospital. The AARP Bulletin reports that “[a]fter age 65, there’s an increased risk for serious complications from the flu — such as pneumonia, heart inflammation, kidney failure or sepsis. Up to 70 percent of people hospitalized for wintertime flus are 65 and older, and this age group suffers 85 percent of flu-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” However, you can run into these problems at an even younger age.
What you need to know about Bronchitis
Another possible cause of coughing is bronchitis. Medical News Today says that “Bronchitis occurs when the airways in the lungs become inflamed. Acute bronchitis lasts for a few days or weeks but chronic bronchitis can persist for months. Both types of bronchitis cause a cough that brings some mucus up with it. Other symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
It is possible to treat most cases of acute bronchitis at home with rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. Symptoms that last for longer than a couple of weeks could indicate chronic bronchitis, and this will require a trip to the doctor.”
For treating coughs, the Mayo Clinic offers this advice: “Cough medicines usually are used only when cough is an acute condition, causes a lot of discomfort, interferes with sleep and is not associated with any of the potentially worrisome symptoms indicated above. If you use cough medicine, be sure to follow the dosing instructions.
Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are intended to treat the symptoms of coughs and colds, not the underlying disease. Research suggests that these medicines haven’t been proved to work any better than inactive medicine (placebo). More important, these medications have potentially serious side effects, including fatal overdoses in children younger than 2 years old. Don’t use over-the-counter medicines, except for fever reducers and pain relievers, to treat coughs and colds in children younger than 6 years old. Also, consider avoiding use of these medicines for children younger than 12 years old.
Tips to Ease Your Cough
- Suck cough drops or hard candies. They may ease a dry cough and soothe an irritated throat. Don’t give them to a child under age 6, however, because of the risk of choking.
- Consider taking honey. A teaspoon of honey may help loosen a cough. Don’t give honey to children younger than 1 year old because honey can contain bacteria harmful to infants.
- Moisturize the air. Use a cool mist humidifier or take a steamy shower.
- Drink fluids. Liquid helps thin the mucus in your throat. Warm liquids, such as broth tea or lemon juice, can soothe your throat.
- Avoid tobacco smoke.”