‘Visit your GP’ if you have a long lasting cough – signs to look for and what it could be

NHS advises how to treat a common cold

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Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click, advised you see a GP if you have a long lasting cough. “This is particularly important if your cough has lasted more than three weeks, you are experiencing chest pain, weight loss, breathlessness, swollen glands and if you are taking treatment that can weaken your immune system,” he said.

He explained: “Whilst most coughs are caused by colds and self-limiting infections, a persistent cough can be a sign of cancer, COPD, uncontrolled cancer, cystic fibrosis, or other long term conditions which require investigating.

“If you have started a new medication, such as blood pressure tablets, this could also be causing your cough.”

If these have been ruled out by your GP, Kanani said your cough is nothing to worry about and will usually resolve spontaneously.

If you have asthma or COPD, your cough may indicate that your condition is not fully under control.

Kanani advised: “Your GP or pharmacist may ask you to have a review, to see how your cough could be better controlled.

“Often, a simple change in your medication can help.”

If your cough isn’t caused by anything serious, what can you do to get rid of it?

Coughs are often caused by post nasal drip, where mucus trickles down to the back of your throat, said Kanani.

But staying hydrated can help to reduce the thickness of mucus, which is less likely to irritate your throat.

He added: “Honey can also help to soothe a cough, soothing the scratching at the back of your throat.

“Mixing in with some hot water and a sprinkle of turmeric, lemon and ginger can help to lower congestion.

“Turmeric has been shown to boost immune function, helping you to recover faster, and the spice from the ginger has an anti-inflammatory effect which can help to relax smooth muscles in your airways, making breathing easier and reducing the need to cough.”

If you are experiencing a chesty cough which is producing mucus, usually green in colour, this may indicate you have a chest infection.

“Particularly if your cough is accompanied by shortness of breath or wheezing, a high temperature, headaches, fatigue and muscle ache,” said Kanani.

“This will usually last three weeks, but will go away by itself.

“If it gets worse, or is persistent, your GP may prescribe you with antibiotics, but this is usually a last resort.

“Some coughs are viral and antibiotics will not help.”

If your cough is accompanied by a rise in temperature, loss of taste or smell, you should isolate and do a PCR test.

Whilst the flu, cold, chest infection and covid share many symptoms, currently, the best advice would be to isolate and do a PCR test until your results come back, said Kanani.

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