As soon as winter sets in, the incidence of coughs increase by leaps and bounds. We asked Réka Andó, MD, otolaryngologist, to explain to us the cause and treatment and when a cough is harmless and when we should rest in bed.
It we use public transportation, we are in contact with many people at work or at school, we are bound to meet up with many types of coughing disorders. We could safely say that there are as many varieties of coughs as there are people. How many types of coughs have been identified by science?
A cough may be dry or catarrhal. It may simply be a viral infection such as influenza or a bacterial inflammation such as pharyngo-laryngitis, but it may also be present in pneumonia, reflux disorder or in conjunction with symptoms of allergy (i.e., sneezing, itchy eyes).
During the Fall and Winter epidemic season it is best to avoid large groups of people as much as possible. This may be almost impossible if you must use public transportation or work with many people. Vitamins, regular physical exercise and the sauna may help strengthen your immune system. The influenza vaccine may also prevent more serious or long-lasting illnesses. If there is illness in our surroundings, it would behoove us to use a face mask. Aerate the rooms in your house several times a day, do not use someone else’s eating utensils or drinking glasses and do not kiss or get too near anyone who is ill.
When should we suspect that something serious might be going on?
If your temperature is elevated or you are feverish for more than one week, there is no improvement even with treatment (i.e., antipyretics and analgesics, vitamin C, teas, lozenges) but your condition worsens, an otolaryngologist (ENT) should be consulted. In the event your cough lasts longer than three weeks and, especially, if there is also hoarseness, your family doctor should be seen.
Can we cure ourselves at home? Are the lozenges, herbal teas and vitamins available without a prescription?
Feel free to use these „folk remedies”. They are good and are often enough since they alleviate your symptoms and are not hard on your system. A little help is often enough to allow the immune system to beat the infection. These remedies, though, will not have the necessary effect against more serious viral infections or viral infections that turned bacterial. For example, if the sputum brought up while coughing is thick and yellowish green in color, bacterial infection may be assumed and should be treated with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
How much time is required to get over a catarrhal cough?
In the event of a more serious upper respiratory infection, even if it is not catarrhal but in some measure is a dry cough, it may take several weeks. Ideally, it usually clears up in 2-3 weeks.
When should we stay home and in what condition may we go among people?
Stay at home when feverish or have a raised temperature. The child should not go to kindergarten or school when listless, is not his or her usual self, has a runny nose or a sore throat even if there is no fever since, on the one hand, there is the danger of infectation of others and, on the other, the child would be more susceptible to other infections in this weakened state.
What happens if we do not get treated at all?
Our body will fight simple viral infections without any particular help; however, more serious infections may lead to serious complications if untreated.