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Health:Don’t neglect your cough


The way people cough all over the place seems to suggest that many don’t see it as an ailment that is serious enough to warrant hospital visit.

It’s even worse among adults as they cough repeatedly, clearing their throats all the time, spitting indiscriminately and generally being obnoxious.

In school, kids are known to regularly return home with serious infections from classmates whose parents have neglected to treat their cough.

Yet, physicians are warning that even though coughing is sometimes the body’s way of cleaning up itself, in some cases, it could be a harbinger of other health issues, hence the need to attend to it when a cough refuses to subside in two weeks.

A General Practitioner, Dr. Olatunde Shipeolu, says in general, coughs are usually caused by infections such as common cold, affecting the throat and the windpipe.

He says that pneumonia can also lead to a coughing spree, especially in cases of infections of the lungs.

“A long time condition such as asthma can also lead to coughing, just as an allergic condition like hay fever can make anyone develop cough,” Shipeolu says.

He adds that when a person inhales too much dust or smoke, s/he may develop cough until the airways are rid of the infectious agents.

And for the smoker, cough is a regular and constant companion. Shipeolu says for an individual who smokes, a cough can be an indication that the smoker has developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Another physician, Dr. Oghenekaro Iriogbe, says cough can be dry, chesty or whoopy.

A paediatrician, Dr. Laolu Falade, warns that in children, a cough can be an indication that a child has cystic fibrosis.

“This is a genetic condition that makes the lungs and digestive system to become clogged with mucus, with attendant symptoms such as persistent cough, recurring chest and lung infections, and poor weight gain, among others,” Falade says.

He adds that in certain scenarios, constant coughs might also be an indication that a child is infested with worms and therefore needs to be dewormed under the guidance of a competent physician.

“The trouble with children’s cough from worm infestation is that it is very possible for a single child who is infected this way to infect an entire class of children! That is why parents should not neglect to treat any coughing child, knowing that other children are at risk of catching the infection,” the paediatrician says.

The doctors warn that another reason why one may not ignore a cough that refuses to subside in two or three weeks is because the condition may be due to the presence of diseases in the chest cavity.

“Certain diseases in the chest cavity may also cause a chronic cough. These include cancer, unusual growth of a lymph node or if an individual develops an abnormal enlargement of the main blood vessel in the heart.

“The longer the coughing person stays away from accessing care, the more complicated the treatment is likely to become. We counsel people to take coughs seriously once it’s getting to unbearable levels,” Iriogbe says.

The physicians say coughs due to infections are usually accompanied by fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, headache, sinus pressure, runny nose, and night sweats.

They also warn that such coughs are usually accompanied by copious sputum or phlegm, indicating that an infection is present.

Shipeolu notes that in most cases, coughs get nastier at nights, keeping you and everyone around you awake for the better part of the night; and leaving everyone grouchy in the morning!

He says coughs get worse at nights because the throat is predisposed to gathering mucus as an individual lies down to go to sleep.

“This makes it hard for the body to clear the airways naturally, hence mucus can build up in the throat, sending you into coughing episodes,” Shipeolu explains.

What to do

Health care experts counsel as follows:

  • See the doctor if you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks
  • By the time your cough is particularly severe or is getting worse, it’s time to visit the hospital
  • Coughing up blood or experiencing shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or chest pain is a serious issue that the doctor must attend to.
  • If your cough is attended by worrying symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, a persistent change in your voice, or lumps or swellings in your neck, see the doctor!
  • Depending on the severity, your physician may ask you to undergo certain tests such as a chest X-ray, allergy tests, breathing tests, and an analysis of a sample of your phlegm to check for infection.
  • A warm shower before bed will help your body to relax, while it will also loosen the mucus and lead to chest decongestion at the same time.
  • Have some water, clean handkerchief and your cough medicine near your bed. This will soothe you as it tackles the irritation.
  • Be extra-hygienic by washing your bedding once every week with warm water.
  • Sip water all the time. It will lubricate your throat and reduce the irritation in the throat.
  • While your cough lasts, sleep on your side, and not on your back.


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