When you have a cold, you can expect the symptoms to clear up within four to seven days, particularly if you are taking the best cough medicine for adults and other prescribed medications. However, if a virus or infection is the cause of your illness, you may feel sick for as long as two to three weeks.
But no matter how long you battle a cold, there will be instances wherein you will see all the symptoms go away, except for one: your cough.
If you still have a cough long after the other symptoms of your cold are gone, it may be due to one or a combination of these reasons:
There will be instances when even after you treat your cold, there will be some leftover airway inflammation in the lungs. This is usually a residue from an upper respiratory tract infection that may or may not have been targeted during your treatment.
This inflammation in the lungs causes you to keep coughing even after you feel better.
If you are still coughing for several weeks after all the cold symptoms are gone, see your doctor. If the infection is severe, you will be given antibiotics to treat it.
Additionally, continue drinking plenty of water and other fluids to thin out the mucus in your lungs and sinuses. This will help reduce your coughing and hasten the expulsion of the remaining virus or bacteria from your body.
When your cough is dry and non-productive, which resembles asthma, this lingering symptom could be caused by post-inflammatory bronchospasm.
This condition is characterized by a constriction of the airways which restricts airflow and causes cough and wheezing.
If your doctor provides you with a diagnosis for this condition, you may be prescribed a short course of asthma medications which include bronchodilators and steroidal spray. These medicines will help clear up your coughing and prevent you from wheezing and experiencing shortness of breath at night or after working out.
Post-nasal drip, which is also known as upper airway cough syndrome, is a condition wherein mucus accumulates in your throat or nose. When it gets stuck in the throat, it causes irritation and repeated coughing.
This condition is one of the most common after-effects of having a cold.
Aside from cough, postnasal drip can also cause you to have a sore throat and feel the need to clear your throat often.
To fight off the post-nasal drip, drink more liquids than usual. Avoid cold and dry heated air and smog or smoke as well.
Adding more of the best foods for cough in your diet will help you feel better faster, too.
To increase air moisture in your room or home, which will help you get rid of your post-nasal drip faster, use a cool-mist humidifier or a vaporizer.
Over-the-counter medicines can help dry up the mucus and suppress your cough reflex. However, if you notice that this symptom is not going away, you may need antibiotics to treat any bacterial infection.
If you have been coughing for more than eight weeks now, your cough will be considered chronic. You have to see your doctor, who may refer you to a pulmonologist.
Chronic cough can be caused by post-nasal drip and uncontrolled asthma and allergies. However, these conditions can also aggravate it:
- Acid reflux or GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Chronic bronchitis and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD
- Bronchitis, pneumonia, and other severe forms of acute respiratory infection
- Side effects of certain medicines, such as blood pressure medications that include ACE inhibitors and non-steroidal drugs like aspirin
A pulmonologist will be able to pinpoint the exact cause of your chronic cough and provide the treatment that will best address it.
Lastly, even if you do not have the sniffles but experience on-and-off fever, shortness of breath, and coughing up blood, you need to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. These symptoms are typical of pneumonia, a potentially fatal respiratory disease.
Chronic cough can also be a symptom of other serious illnesses, such as:
- Cystic fibrosis – a genetic condition that causes the exocrine glands to produce abnormally thick mucus that damages the lungs and other organs
- Bronchiolitis – an infection and inflammation of the bronchioles, the tiny air passages found in the lungs
- Bronchiectasis – a condition wherein the airways of the lungs expand abnormally, causing it to collect mucus which inflames and thickens the lungs
- Interstitial lung disease or ILD – a group of disorders that cause scarring or fibrosis of the lung tissues
- Sarcoidosis – a condition in which granuloma, or abnormal masses or nodules, form in certain organs of the body, most often in the lungs and lymph glands
Whether you cough incessantly or have bouts every now and then, if it doesn’t seem to be going away, don’t hesitate to see your doctor since there is a chance that its cause can be life-threatening.
It is best to err on the side of caution and see your doctor if your cough is not getting any better after a week or so.