Andrew Murrison: Flu may 'come back and bite us' during winter
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Dr Jeff Foster, GP, explains: “In medicine there really isn’t such a thing as a ‘chest infection’. This simply covers anything from a mild cold that drips mucus into the chest, to bronchitis, to pneumonia. To get rid of the problem you need to know the cause. And treat the underlying problem not the symptom (ie giving cough medicine for acid reflux will not work). In chronic psychological coughs, we do use techniques such as swallowing, or sucking sweets as it is impossible to cough and swallow or yawn at the same time.”
Alongside the cough, bronchitis is often accompanied by other symptoms in the respiratory system.
This includes things such as sore throats, blocked noses and headaches.
High temperatures, loss of energy and shortness of breath are also frequent occurrences.
These symptoms can persist as long as three weeks for acute bronchitis.
Without pre-existing conditions like cystic fibrosis of asthma, these types of chest infections are typically self-limiting and will pass without needing antibiotics.
As viral infections, antibiotics will not be able to affect them.
Viral infections are most often treated with medicines that reduce the symptoms.
Others, such as seasonal flus, can be prevented with vaccination.
Pneumonia produces many of the same symptoms however and requires antibiotic treatment.
Symptoms more common to pneumonia include chest pain when breathing and moving, flu like symptoms and blood in your coughs.
If you believe you have pneumonia you should pursue medical treatment with antibiotics.
Pneumonia is more common during the winter months.
There are reasons outside of respiratory infections that you might be coughing.
Acid reflux can cause irritation to the throat and result in involuntary coughing while spicy foods, certain medicines and habits such as smoking can cause similar irritation.
It can also be psychosomatic, with some people developing a cough as a habit or tick.
In this way, sometimes the cure to a cough is a change in behaviour, diet or habit.
Dr Foster also warns against downplaying symptoms, mistaking a Covid infection for more transient respiratory infections.
“Many patients say to me ‘I know it’s not covid as it’s not a covid cough’.
“In reality that makes no sense as the vast majority of chest infections are caused by viruses they affect the lungs in the same way as covid would.”
The ‘dry cough’ that is typically listed as a Covid symptom appears equally on the symptoms of bronchitis, where the cough can be either dry or produce phlegm.
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