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Yes, that cough that lasts for 2 or 3 weeks is normal

It starts every year around this time – the cough that just won’t go away.

Any persistent cough that lasts up to three weeks is deemed “acute cough illness” or ACI. It’s one of the most common reasons why people seek outpatient care.

What does this have to do with chiropractic care? Not a whole lot (though fierce coughing fits certainly don’t do your back any good.) But we see patients come in all the time through the “flu” season, complaining of a persistent cough.

It’s one of the most common reasons that people are prescribed antibiotics when they shouldn’t be.

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections – like pneumonia and strep. They have zero effectiveness on viral infections. More than 90 per cent of instances of ACI stem from viruses – the same nasty bugs that give us the flu and the common cold.

And yet, doctors too often prescribe antibiotics for a cough they expect is viral in nature because, well, many of us complain about it and expect a quick fix.

Don’t worry, you’ll be back to normal in no time!

Your body did it, all by itself

And then these patients take their antibiotics. A few days later, they see improvement and attribute it to the antibiotics. Often, they fail to appreciate that the cough has just run its course – their bodies have fought off the virus on their own. The antibiotics had nothing to do with it.

Studies have shown that the mean duration of a cough is about 18 days – that’s the average amount of time it’s going to take for the body to fight off the offending virus. But most of us expect it to take only a week at most!

So what happens? We put up with it for a week or so before we’re finally fed up and go see a doctor. If antibiotics are prescribed, the usual course of treatment is going to be five to seven days. Do the math – by the time the antibiotics are done, it may have already been two weeks or more since the cough started, enough time for it to have naturally run its course.

The risk of breeding super bugs

But, you say, no harm, no foul, right? What’s the big deal taking antibiotics even if you didn’t really need them?
Ever heard the term “super bug?”

Overuse of antibiotics is a key contributor to bacterial resistance. Strains of bacteria that are exposed to, but survive antibiotics become stronger and harder to treat in the future. In some cases, the results can be deadly. And when you are taking antibiotics when you don’t have a bacterial infection, you are doing needless harm to the beneficial bacteria that are essential to your body’s healthy function, such as the “gut flora” in your bowel.

Signs to watch for

So before you rush off to get that prescription, watch for these symptoms first that may indicate you do indeed have a bacterial infection, or that your viral infection is getting worse and may require some other form of treatment:

  • The cough is getting worse
  • You’re developing a high fever
  • You’re coughing up phlegm that’s bloody or rusty
  • You’re experiencing shortness of breath

Did you find this information useful?

I hope you did. Please share it with your family and friends. You can also follow Hazeldean Family Chiropractic on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where we regularly post on other health-related topics.

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