Persistent cough after cold?
June 22, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

After getting off of a mild cold. I've had an on and off cough for about 2 weeks. What should I do?

Just before school ended, I had a very runny/stuffy nose and I just wasn't feeling that great. I was coughing the whole time too. I felt much better a few days after school ended, but I still had a cough! It will start up randomly or something will trigger it. For example, I was at a Grahams yesterday and I ordered a salted caramel, I wanted to taste the salt on top before dropping it all in my mouth. I immediately started coughing and it wouldn't let up. Cough medication doesn't seem to help that much.

I read up on what my cough could be, some places said it could be my alleles are still inflamed, and a doctor could prescribe a temporary inhaler.

What do you think?

Thanks! *cough*
posted by NotSoSiniSter to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've had this before. Just go to the doctor. In my case, I had a throat infection due to all the bacteria that bred in my backed up sinus snot and drained into my throat. I got a z-pack (antibiotic) and it was all over in a couple days. For what it's worth, my boyfriend at the time had the same problem (surely due to catching the same creeping crud from me), and his doctor didn't take a throat culture and instead prescribed him an inhaler. Boyfriend used the inhaler as prescribed, but continued to cough for another month.

(Make sure your doctor takes a throat culture.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:25 AM on June 22, 2011

2 weeks? Saunter, don't run, to your favorite doctor/PA/LPN/clinic/urgent care. You might have something bacterial. You might not. If it's bothering you enough to ask on here, it's bothering you enough to seek medical attention.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:30 AM on June 22, 2011

My doctor did this for me a couple weeks ago. Apparently my throat continued to be irritated, causing me to cough, irritating the throat further. I had been coughing for a month after my cold cleared. She gave me an inhaler for day, cough syrup with codeine for nights. It's pretty much worked, after a couple days I didn't need the inhaler anymore. I'm still waking coughing once or twice most nights, but that might be a dry throat thing.
posted by lemonade at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2011

I had a similar problem for many years, i.e., I would catch a mild cold and then continue coughing and hacking up phlegm for weeks afterward. The coughing would be so uncontollable that I would have to take care to be seated near an exit at the theater in case I had to bolt in mid-act. At other times such a spell of coughing seemed to be triggered by mild seasonal allergies, but it was hard to tell, because it seemed that I spent about half my life recovering from a cough.

Anyway, long story long, my doctor prescribed Montelukast (Singulair) which I now take prophylactically and now the annual (or biennial) cold runs its course quickly, with at most a day or two of coughing.

I'm not sure whether a leukotriene antagonist would work in the case of a one-time acute cough, but it seems like something about which your doctor can offer you more guidance.
posted by La Cieca at 9:35 AM on June 22, 2011

Yeah, what the others have said. You prob. need a temporary inhaler.

My doc described it as temporary asthma after a cold. Happened to me a few times over a two or three year span, then I learned that if I have a cold and the cough starts up as the cold is ending, I need to hit it hard with cough syrup right away -- it's that the repetitive coughing irritates the lungs which then leads to more coughing more irritated airways which leads to more coughing which then leads to the inhaler. If I can sort of stop it before the cycle starts, I'm okay.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm just getting over something similar and have found that hot water, honey, lemon juice and glycerine really soothes my throat. I coughed so much that I irritated my throat and vocal cords, making me want to cough more.
posted by essexjan at 9:48 AM on June 22, 2011

I had a severe (as in, made me puke about 5 times in a row every other day from coughing so hard) post-cough after having pneumonia. I took all kinds of drugs--antibiotics, Sudafed, Claritin, inhalers aplenty-- and at one point got diagnosed with asthma because they ran out of ideas as to what it was. (Then actually tested me and oh, never mind, you don't have asthma). What got rid of it? Exercising frequently. I got a gym membership and it went away within a month.

I'm not saying that's your problem, but it might be an option if no drugs work.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:49 AM on June 22, 2011

The coughing after a cold thing started happening to me within the last couple of years (usually when lying down). I drank an entire bottle of cough syrup (recommended dosage, not the whole thing at once lol) and it did nothing for me. I took one dose of Musinex and the cough went away almost immediately.

I would still recommend going to see a doctor if the cough lasts more than a week and especially if the stuff you are coughing up is greenish in color (that means you have an infection).
posted by littlesq at 9:51 AM on June 22, 2011

Seconding the Mucinex; I get low-level coughing for a week or so after colds, because the cold also causes post-nasal drip that takes a little while longer to finish clearing. Mucinex helps admirably.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 AM on June 22, 2011

This is pretty much my life for the last 30 years - a cold lasts 3 days and the following cough lasts 3 weeks. I was diagnosed with reactive airway disease, which is kind of a meaningless term that means "coughs a lot but doesn't actually have classic asthma" but it works on insurance paperwork. The best treatment for for me when the cough won't respond to OTC cough syrup is cough suppressant with codeine, plus an asthma inhaler if it's really bad. As others have said, coughing begets coughing, so the quicker you can knock out a coughing fit the better.

You learn to avoid cough triggers: cold air, spicy food (sigh), "scratchy" food (crackers, crusty bread, nuts), and talking (also sigh). Dry air is probably also bad, but I don't run into it here so I can't say for sure.

Another thing that helps is sleeping propped up so mucous doesn't pool and cause a coughing fit. Build a pillow pile that supports you in an even slope from waist to head - just propping up your head doesn't work.

But yeah, get the inhaler and some codeine cough syrup and the sooner you get this under control, the sooner you'll get over it.

P.S. Inflamed alleles makes no sense - did you mean alveoli? If this wasn't a typo, it suggests the sources you read are really sketchy.
posted by Quietgal at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had a persistent cough for as long as three months after various respiratory infections - it's never meant anything more serious and there's never been any real treatment measures taken. HOWEVER - a friend had a persistent cough after a mild cold, and it turned out to be Hodgkin's disease; the cold was incidental. So, it's worth getting checked out.
posted by chez shoes at 10:53 AM on June 22, 2011

Every cold I have with a cough does this to me. I eventually realize it's been three weeks or so and I'm still coughing, go to the doctor, and end up with a diagnosis of bronchitis and a prescription for benzonatate (cough syrup with codeine doesn't work on me).

She says my airway tends to get irritated and make me cough, which irritates it more, which makes me cough, etc., until I manage to interrupt it.

For future info: I lied above when I said that every cold with a cough does this to me. They used to do this to me, but I discovered that using a humidifier at night when I have a cold prevents the extensive days of coughing afterwards. (And times when I can't use a humidifier, like when I'm traveling when I come down with the cold, it follows the old pattern of weeks of coughing afterwards.)
posted by telophase at 11:31 AM on June 22, 2011

When that happened to me after a typical cold earlier this year, I was diagnosed with asthma and prescribed an inhalant for a week. I've never had asthma in my life - my doctor said that if I had, I would have immediately recognized the wheezing. It was accompanied by severe and unusual tiredness and brain fog (not enough oxygen in my blood), caused by inflammation of my airways due to the earlier coughing (from the cold, mucus etc.) and my symptoms disappeared pretty much on the spot after using my prescription.
posted by halogen at 11:35 AM on June 22, 2011

You had a cold. Now you have a cough. That's what happens sometimes when you get a cold. This seems completely normal to me.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on June 22, 2011

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