GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– With a global pandemic barely behind us, flu season popping up every year, and those pesky seasonal allergies– most of us are no stranger to “coughing”.
As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, 7News Anchor Taylor Murray spoke with a family medicine physician about when to worry about a cough.
While it may be an annoying symptom, coughs that are ‘productive’ can get germy mucus or irritants out of your lungs when you’re sick.
Most will go away in a few days.
“For the average healthy person, if your cough lasts more than about two weeks after say a cold or something like that, you may consider going to your doctor and getting an idea of what could be causing it,” Dr. Vejnar said.
Dr. Meredith Bergey Vejnar, a family medicine physician, says there are several reasons a cough could be persistent.
“The most common causes are postnasal drip, asthma, reflex and sometimes medications.”
Dr. Meredith Bergey Vejnar, Family Medicine Physician, Bon Secour St. Francis
Sometimes irritants in the environment can cause a cough to become chronic.
“Allergens in the air, particularly this time of year with pollen. Additionally, depending on where you work there may be certain work exposures. For instance, people who work in industries that have fumes or dust or things like that, those things can actually activate the cough receptors in the back of your throat and in your chest,” Dr. Vejnar said.
Dr. Vejnar says a cough is upgraded from acute to chronic if it lasts more than eight weeks. But if the cough is bothersome, impacting your sleep, quality of life, or ability to work– don’t wait that long to reach out to your doctor.
“The first step in the evaluation of a chronic cough involves a thorough history intake and trying to ascertain any irritants or allergies or risk factors and most of the treatment is based on treating those more simple conditions at the beginning,” Dr. Vejnar said.
Treating a chronic cough is fairly simple, according to Dr. Vejnar.
“Treating cough can be done with dextromethorphan, which is your over-the-counter Robitussin that’s fairly safe for most patients… There are other medications that can treat cough, however, those medications can be habit-forming and are not recommended for long-term use.”Dr. Meredith Bergey Vejnar, Family Medicine Physician, Bon Secour St. Francis
Your healthcare provider will also take a look at your medical history, and weight, and ask if you are a smoker to help diagnose why your cough is persisting.
Sometimes a chest x-ray is necessary.
A dry cough is one of the most common symptoms of covid-19. Health professionals still recommend getting tested if you have symptoms.
To find a Covid-19 testing location near you, click here.