Cold or Allergy?
April showers bring May flowers and stubborn coughs
It is spring and many of us have suddenly been stricken with what seems like a cold. So how are you supposed to know if you have a cold or seasonal allergies?
If you have a lingering cough that just won’t go away, and it reoccurs on a seasonal basis, chances are its seasonal allergies. For instance, if you find yourself saying, “I always get a cold at this time of year” you should suspect allergies. Although don’t be surprised if your doctor looks bored when you mention a cough; as far as respiratory symptoms go, a cough is the most common symptom that sends people running to their physician’s office.
Cough is categorized in 2 distinct ways - an acute cough (which lasts 1 to 2 weeks) and a chronic cough, (which last more than 4 weeks). Coughing is your body’s way of clearing particles and mucous from your lungs and breathing passages. So coughing is a good thing – until it becomes a persistent menace.
So what causes you to become a coughing mess come spring? Well, a whole host of things can be behind your coughing, including:
- Bad habits can also be behind your cough – such as smoking.
- Bacterial or viral infections of your airways and/or lungs.
- Diseases of the nasal or sinus passages.
- Believe it or not your stomach can be the source if problems occur in the esophagus such as GERD (gastro-esophagial reflux disease).
- Environmental irritants that you constantly breathe in can cause a lingering cough.
You see, not every cough is the sign of a problem that requires your doctor. The rule of thumb is that a daytime cough (particularly after a viral infection or simple cold) doesn’t require treatment. Only seek treatment if such a cough lasts more than two weeks. However, coughing at night after going to sleep is almost always a reason to see your doctor.
There are other aspects to a cough that should cue you to seek medical advice. For instance, you should head to the clinic if your cough was getting better, but suddenly turns for the worse. While sometimes harder to determine, you should seek help if your cough continues to impede daily activities or sleep. If you’ve had a prescription and your cough is not improving, you should probably go back to the doctor. If you cough up blood, get attention immediately.
News Release, March 2, 2006
American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (ACAAI)