Experts reveal why your winter cough lasted longer this year

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Photo used for illustrative purpose.

Coughs that last a long time this winter may be the result of people picking up one infection after another, a GP expert has said.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said doctors have noticed that the current round of respiratory infections seems to be lasting longer than usual.

She said figures from the College’s research and surveillance centre show that rates of lower and upper respiratory tract infections are well above the average usually seen so far in winter.

Prof Hawthorne told the PA news agency: “It’s not clear why some of the current respiratory infections going around do seem to be lasting longer than usual – this has been noticed by doctors as well as patients, but we are not entirely sure why this is happening.


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“Most of the public have been socially isolated during the last two winters and this appears to have reduced their resistance to infections – this seems to make it more likely they will pick up infections than in previous years.

“So, in some cases, it may be a matter of picking up one infection after another. They are all different and getting over one type of infection does not give immunity against another one.

“We’d encourage patients to do what they can to keep themselves well this winter, including practising good public hygiene such as regular handwashing, or using hand gels if that isn’t possible, and throwing tissues away once they’ve been used.”

She recommended regular paracetamol for any temperature, sore throat or earache, keeping warm, getting plenty of rest, and drinking lots of fluids.

“We’d encourage patients to understand that giving antibiotics for viral infections will not help, as they only help with bacterial infections,” she said.

“If a cough is particularly persistent, or bringing up discoloured phlegm, has severely worsened with shortness of breath, or if a patient is experiencing chest pain or losing weight for no reason, they should seek a medical opinion.”

Asthma and Lung UK clinical lead Dr Andrew Whittamore, who is also a GP, told PA some doctors have seen more coughing this winter, which may be related to weather changes and the nature of specific viruses.

He added: “We haven’t seen so much Covid, but it is still there. And we’ve also had viruses such as Strep A, with lots of people coming to us who were coughing but also had sore throats – mainly children, but a lot of adults as well.

“Covid affects people in lots of different ways – some can get scarring of their lungs and fibrosis, which can cause a long-term cough.

“This is why we say anybody who’s still coughing four weeks after having Covid to really get a chest X-ray and get checked out.”

The Independent

 

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