The Sunday Post (Inverness)

The sound of carolers, sleigh bells ...and a cacophony of coughs


At this time of year the air is filled with the sounds of sleigh bells ringing, carolers singing – and sick people coughing.

Walk into the waiting room of your local GP’S surgery and you are more than likely to be met with a cacophony of coughs.

Often it’s down to an outbreak of some bug or other.

Normally coughs caused by a cold or flu clear up in two or three weeks, but sometimes they hang around a bit longer.

If a cough lasts for longer than eight weeks then it is described as a chronic cough, and the possible causes are many.

Often if someone comes in to see me with a long-term cough it’s down to them smoking, or being around a smoker.

However I’d also want to check someone with a “smoker’s cough” for chronic obstructiv­e pulmonary disease or COPD.

On the other hand, a persistent dry cough might be down to medication. A lot of people take ACE inhibitors – such as ramipril – which help lower blood pressure.

A persistent cough can be a slightly surprising side effect of this helpful medicine.

Enough people take ACE inhibitors to keep them in mind as a possible cause of cough.

If someone has had a cold or is being irritated by allergies, they might get a build-up of catarrh in their nasal passage.

This gunk can drip down the back of your throat and annoy the airways, leading to a cough.

If you get acid reflux this can also cause a cough, often at night when you lie down.

Acid makes its way up from the stomach and irritates the windpipe and the voicebox.

A recurrent cough can be due to asthma, particular­ly if there is sometimes wheezing too.

A lingering cough could signal something more serious though, like cancer, particular­ly if someone has smoked for years.

If a smoker has a persistent cough which produces a bit of blood and also is losing weight, then they need further tests.

Luckily most of the time it’s one of the easier-to-treat causes I’ve described.

Either way if you’ve got a cough that’s been lingering, it might be time to join the chorus in your GP’S waiting room.

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