Post viral cough

Many people of all ages suffer from a dry and unproductive cough straight after suffering from a cold, flu or chest infection. Your cold may have cleared up, but your airways could still be irritated. And the worst is that cold drinks and cold air can set you off into a coughing frenzy.

The bad news is that this annoying cough - which is known by some as the 100 day cough - can last anywhere between three to eight weeks.  In addition, antibiotics won’t work because the cough is generally a result of a recent viral infection. Sometimes the coughing fits can be so violent they cause hiccups or vomiting.

So what causes this cough?

  • A post nasal drip: Mucus running down the back of your nose, and onto the back of your throat is quite common after a cold or flu. Sometimes the virus sensitises the throat so much that the dripping really irritates the throat and causes reflex coughing. This often occurs at night when you are lying in bed.
  • Cold air: Breathing through the mouth when the throat is sensitive can cause coughing - especially when you are out in the icy winter air.
  • Inflammation of the upper airways: Colds and flu cause sore throats and inflamed tonsils and upper respiratory tracts which can take some time to return to normal.
  • Asthma: Asthmatics are generally more sensitive to the effects of colds and flu, which can set off asthma symptoms. This will mean that asthmatics need to start their “rescue action plan”.

The good news is that you can treat the symptoms. Do this by:

  • drinking honey drinks to soothe the throat
  • sucking lozenges (demulcents) to stimulate saliva production  that inturn coats the throat to help protect it
  • taking appropriate cough suppressants
  • keeping the air around you warm and reasonably dry. You can do this by wearing a scarf over your mouth and nose to help warm air up before it gets to your throat. Very dry air can make the cough worse, so try and breathe through your nose which helps moisten the air and reduce the irritation factor.

There is no formal cure for this cough but boosting your immune system, and sticking to a healthy lifestyle, can help prevent you from getting a cold which in turn leads to the cough.

In some cases, a cough can be the cause of other underlying problems like food allergies, medicine side-effects, an ear, nose or throat problem, or something more serious. If the cough gets worse or has not improved in a few weeks always consult your community pharmacist or GP.