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WINTER HEALTH: DR MARK PORTER'S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING YOU EVER NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT...COUGHS.

Byline: DR MARK PORTER

The common cold is the most common cause of a cough (normally dry and tickly), but there are many others - including smoking, asthma, heart problems, and pneumonia.

Coughs due to viruses generally settle within three weeks.

Antibiotics do not help.

There is very little evidence that over-the-counter cough medicines have much effect - they are unlikely to do any harm, but are expensive. There are two main types - suppressants, which are supposed to ease tickly coughs, and expectorants, which are supposed to help chesty coughs. Some doctors use them, I don't.

Suspicious coughs include those accompanied by breathlessness, a high temperature, blood-stained sputum (phlegm), and those that last more than three weeks. A cough caused by a cold will never cause breathlessness on its own although it can aggravate an underlying problem such as asthma.

Pain on breathing in or coughing is often due to a pulled muscle in the rib cage, but can indicate more serious infection and should be checked out.

Yellowish-green sputum can occur with a simple viral cough and doesn't necessarily mean you need antibiotics.

Coughing that is worse at night, or on physical exertion, points to asthma. A cough made worse by lying flat may indicate fluid on the lungs.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 11, 2001
Words:208
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