Hundreds of thousands of people across the country have been struck down by a persistent hacking cough this winter.
With A&E departments groaning under the pressure of extra patients coming through their doors, doctors are now stressing to the public that there’s virtually nothing they can do to help as antibiotics have no effect on these viruses.
Dr Anna Kuczynska todl Wales Online: We know there is a particularly nasty, persistent cough in the community that lasts a number of weeks and is leading a lot of people to attend their GP surgery.
Unfortunately, in most cases, unless the patient has another underlying chronic condition for example, heart or lung disease or diabetes, there is often nothing the GP can do to help other than recommend resting and drinking plenty of fluids.
Antibiotics will be of no help for most normally healthy people.
If you see blood or are breathless with your symptoms, have lost weight or symptoms are on-going more than three weeks, patients should get advice.
GP Steve Bassett said plenty of rest and fluids, along with keeping warm, are the only cures.
He said: If you have a cough even if you are producing green phlegm if you are eating and drinking normally and are otherwise pretty well; then we don’t need to see you.
It’s only if you have other symptoms, such as a fever as well as a cough, or have problems breathing, or are vomiting, that we may need to investigate further.
Coughs and colds simply have to run their course. There isn’t any prescribed medication which can shorten or cure them, and that includes antibiotics which are not effective on viruses, and are more likely to cause you problematic side effects.
John Oxford, an emeritus professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London, who has just recovered from the infection himself, says it is ‘highly likely’ the adenovirus is to blame for the outbreak.
When to see your GP:
According to NHS Choices , there’s usually no need to see your GP if you or your child have a mild cough for a week or two. However, you should seek medical advice if:
* You’ve had a cough for more than three weeks
* Your cough is particularly severe or is getting worse
* You cough up blood or experience shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or chest pain
* You have any other worrying symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, a persistent change in your voice, or lumps or swellings in your neck
If your GP is unsure what’s causing your cough, they may refer you to a hospital specialist for an assessment. They may also request some tests, such as a chest X-ray, allergy tests, breathing tests, and an analysis of a sample of your phlegm to check for infection.
How to treat a cough:
NHS Choices says treatment isn’t always necessary for mild, short-term coughs because it’s likely to be a viral infection that will get better on its own within a few weeks. You can look after yourself at home by resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Although some people find the cough medicines and remedies helpful, medicines that claim to suppress your cough or stop you bringing up phlegm are not usually recommended. This is because there’s little evidence to suggest they’re any more effective than simple home remedies, and they’re not suitable for everyone.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommends that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines shouldn’t be given to children under the age of six. Children aged 6 to 12 should only use them on the advice of a doctor or pharmacist.
A homemade remedy containing honey and lemon is likely to be just as useful and safer to take. Honey shouldn’t be given to babies under the age of one because of the risk of infant botulism.