August Newsletter

Winter takes its toll

‘Tis the season for coughing as the depths of winter takes its toll. Patients have been flocking to pharmacies across Tasmania looking for the treatment to stop the incessant coughing during and following a cold.

Though coughing is a very annoying symptom for patients and close family members alike, this symptom is a very important mechanism to protect the airways and lungs from dust, mucous and phlegm.

It is a protective mechanism for our long-term survival to prevent infection and damage to the lungs.

When you go to your pharmacist or doctor, you will be asked to describe the cough. Is the cough productive (coughing anything up)? Does it occur all day long or at certain times of the day? Have you had a cold in the last few weeks? How long have you had your cough? These answers help us to decide the most appropriate treatment or if a follow-up assessment is necessary.

Depending on the cough, it may be a symptom of a viral infection, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, post-nasal drip or a whole host of other respiratory tract disorders.

At this time of year, the most common presentation to a pharmacy for a cough is as a symptom of a cold. People may be concerned when a cough persists even after the cold has passed. The symptoms of a cough outlast other symptoms of a cold for up to three or four weeks which is not only worrying for some people but also very annoying.

Treatments for a cough include doctor prescribed medications, over the counter pharmacy medicines or home remedies.

The first step to treating long-term coughs is going to your doctor for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment for underlying diseases such as asthma. Coughs caused by a cold can be treated with over the counter medicines from your pharmacy or home remedies such as a teaspoon of honey. Medications from the pharmacy that help relieve the symptoms of a cough include cough suppressants, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, lozenges and expectorants (to break up mucous).

The appropriate choice of which one is best for you depends on your symptoms, current medications and underlying health conditions.

If you require further information about how to deal with your cough, ask your pharmacist or go to your local GP if symptoms persist.