Hack, hack, hack. That coughing isn’t just beginning to irritate you, it’s beginning to annoy everyone around you. Of course, a cough here and there is pretty common, but there are times when your body is trying to tell you something. Think of the cough as an important instant message from your chest.
Believe it or not, a forceful cough can push air out of your lungs at a velocity of nearly 500 mph. Try keeping that air in, and that prolonged, vigorous bout of coughing can disrupt your sleep, cause a headache, make you wet your pants, or even break a rib. On the other hand, the slightest tickle of a cough can also be a symptom of something bigger.
An acute cough – the sort that tends to show up with an infection – usually lasts as long as a few weeks. A chronic cough runs eight weeks or more in adults (four weeks or more in kids).
The most common reason for an acute cough is an infection. Viral infections, like the common cold or influenza, top the list. You can usually tell when these show up, as they’re accompanied by other symptoms like fever, a runny nose and feelings of just plain lousiness.
It’s hard to miss the other infection-related cause of an acute cough: Whooping cough got its name for a pretty obvious reason. Brought on by a bacterial infection, it tends to attack kids who haven’t been immunized and adults who lost their immunities.
Irritants in the air and a strained abdominal muscle are the other common reasons for an acute cough.
Allergies, asthma and chronic bronchitis are the top reasons for a chronic cough. Gastrointestinal reflux disease often co-exists with asthma, but it can also cause coughs all on its own. Post-nasal drip, which frequently goes hand-in-hand with allergies but can also occur on its own, is the final culprit in the top five. Lots of other ailments can cause chronic cough: emphysema, heart failure, croup (in young children especially), sinusitis, cystic fibrosis, medication side effects, lung cancer and tuberculosis.
So, do you need a doc? Yes, if you’re having difficulty swallowing or breathing or have pink-tinged sputum – and you also need immediate care. Yes, if you have an acute cough along with a fever, wheezing, thick yellow-green sputum or you’re short of breath. Yes, if you have a chronic cough that just hangs on for no obvious reason.
If you have a cough, come see us at Innovative Express Care in Lincoln Park.