Two things contributing to spread of cough

January 12, 2018 06:23 PM

If it seems like everyone's got a cough, you're not wrong. Two things are going on now affecting our lungs. It's not just the after-effect of having a cold. Allergies are also playing a role.

A gray, rainy winter day doesn't bring to mind the thought of spring allergies when trees are blooming. However, dogwood and pollen are in the air, even now, explained Dr. Nalini Ramanathan with St. Peter’s Health Partners, as ragweed season draws to a close.

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As this rain washes away the snowpack that's kept allergens frozen in place, you can expect more coughing in a few days among those sensitive to these allergens.

"People will probably start with their symptoms and probably in a week from now, even if it snows, their immune systems would have been triggered to be having the post nasal drip, the secretions and they're going to be coughing," noted Ramanathan.

Anti-histamines can help, Dr. Ramanathan explains. However, it's a different treatment route for those who kicked a cold to the curb only to be left with a cough. The diagnosis -- bronchitis.

"I want to emphasize here that bronchitis is not an infection," pointed out Ramanathan.

Rather, it’s an inflammatory reaction triggered by the cold virus.

"During the infection time, the body triggers a lot of secretions and that leads to bronchitis," she noted. "If the lungs are not opening and closing really well, it can sit there and be there forever."

In this case, Dr. Ramanathan says anti-inflammatories like Motrin can help, along with at home steam treatments and the use of bronchodilators. Sometimes a nebulizer treatment is needed to get deeper into the lungs.

"If it's going on for more than four weeks or it's associated with fever, chest pains, wheezing, it's time probably to see the physician," advised Ramanathan.

I also asked Dr. Ramanathan about flu in light of the recent infant death, downstate. She said if your child has the flu and is lethargic, not eating or drinking and not improving, seek medical attention. She also reminds everyone that for flu medications like Tamiflu to be effective, you need to take them within three days of symptoms.


Benita Zahn

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