Strachan’s Chemist offer advice on coughs and colds

Graham Hibbins, from Strachan’s Chemist, looks at the cases of coughs

AT this time of year, there is an increase in the amount of customers with coughs and colds.Although a cough is annoying, it is rarely a sign of anything serious and it should clear up on its own in three to four weeks without seeing a GP.

Coughing is the body’s response to irritation or inflammation in the lungs or the throat. There are two types of cough:

• Dry or tickly cough: does not produce any phlegm or mucus and is often due to an irritation in the throat.
• A chesty cough: produces a thick mucus (can be clear or green) which helps clear the airways.

The most common causes of coughing are colds, smoking, asthma or inhaling a foreign body.

Antibiotics are rarely prescribed initially as your immune system should fight it. I recommend lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids.

Your pharmacist may suggest soothing medicines or cough sweets as these can help soothe the throat and chest but these only have a limited beneficial effect.

Some medicines are not recommended for children under 12 or adults with certain medical conditions or taking medication that could interact. If you think this applies to you, always ask your pharmacist for advice.

Salt water sprays and steam inhalations can help. A runny nose can cause a cough, particularly at night, as fluid drips down the back of the throat causing irritation. This is very common in young children, as most parents will testify!

In babies under six months old, coughs are unusual and could be a sign of a serious lung infection.

Babies and young children should see a GP with persistent coughs, especially if they are lethargic, not feeding or distressed.

I would suggest seeing a healthcare professional if you have had a cough for more than three weeks, you are coughing up blood, experiencing shortness of breath, having breathing difficulties or chest pain.

If you have unexplained weight loss, a persistent change in your voice, swelling of your glands or a weak immune system, you should seek advice.

Surprisingly, coughing can be caused by acid reflux, when the throat becomes irritated by leaking stomach acid.

Your doctor may prescribe a medicine for your stomach, advice about diet, alcohol, weight management and stopping smoking.

Other causes of coughs could be prescribed medication, particularly blood pressure medication, if you are concerned, speak to your pharmacist or other healthcare professional.

• Next month, I am going to talk about vitamins.

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