Hack, hack, help, help.
April 6, 2008 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Chronic productive cough for ten weeks, no health insurance until May 1. I will take any advice you got.

I started coughing with a cold that I got at the end of January. The cold went away and I kept coughing. It's never a dry cough, there's always stuff coming up. It's a little bit more pronounced after I eat, but not much. It's not more severe at night or when I lay down or after exercise, but if I get really tired it's worse. It's worse if the air is cold or dry.

I am really, really tired of coughing.

I went to one nurse practitioner who said it might be reactive airway, but that was when I was still a little sick, so I thought it might go away with the illness. She recommended guafenesin, I tried it to no effect.

I went to an MD that said I had some postnasal drip and recommended Clairitin. I've been taking that. It's ever-so-slightly better, but I'm still coughing a lot.

I can't go back to an MD until May 1. In the meantime, I will try any remedy you can think of, I just started a new job and I really don't want everyone listening to this totally gross cough all day.
posted by jennyjenny to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a fever?

One time I was sick with something that gave me a productive cough and a low fever for fully two months. It turned out to be "walking pneumonia", a bacterial infection of my lungs. I suppose it's possible for it to get better without treatment, but mine didn't. What it took was Levaquin. My doctor knew that I didn't have insurance, and he gave me a full round of pills for free. They were samples given him by pharmaceutical salesmen.

I think this may be a case where only a doctor will do. Waiting until May probably isn't a good idea.
posted by Class Goat at 1:59 PM on April 6, 2008

Response by poster: No fever, no feelings of malaise, no lack of energy at all. I went to a full-length yoga class yesterday and felt wonderful afterward, except for having to step out in the middle for a good long coughing spell. And the MD and nurse practitioner I saw last month both listened to my lungs and saw no signs of pneumonia, though they didn't take any samples to be cultured.
posted by jennyjenny at 2:08 PM on April 6, 2008

This might sound odd, but it could be asthma. Not all asthma attacks involve wheezing. Mine went undiagnosed for years because they were coughing fits, and they get worse in cold, dry air. Or it could be pneumonia, as Class Goat suggests. Neither case is something you should wait three weeks to get treated, but if you are determined to avoid a doctor, drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest.
posted by happyturtle at 2:13 PM on April 6, 2008

If it was me, I'd go on a full expectoration and immune system boosting program. Lots of orange juice, LOTS of fluids, and the full safe dosage of Mucinex for a few days.

I've also had luck with going out for a run and really getting the lungs pumping. And I've also had luck standing on my head and having a good cough in that position. Or at least lying down or bent over an exercise ball.
posted by gjc at 3:21 PM on April 6, 2008

Try a neti pot.
posted by Furious Fitness at 4:40 PM on April 6, 2008

Seconding the neti pot/sinus rinse (neil med makes a good one) suggestion. It's seems kind of gross to do at first, but it's more of a mind over matter thing and, in my experience, it makes a huge difference with any allergy/cold/mucus issues.
posted by katemcd at 5:30 PM on April 6, 2008

Mucinex DM. This stuff is magical.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:52 PM on April 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

As someone who's had year-round allergies (house dust) for many years, I feel your pain. It helps me to keep a humidifier cranked in my bedroom so that it's like I'm in the rainforest; cold dry air makes it worse so modify the air. I tend to inhale some extra steam before bed and take the various mucus medicines (which as you note don't work) since that when it's especially annoying. Flonase type nasal steroids are stinky for a minute, but after a few weeks they seem to really help. That's probably particular to allergies. If you're just tired of coughing, the dextromethorphan-based cough suppressants are very effective. There's a very orange tasting long-lasting one (Delsym) that I like for managing to not be gross.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:58 PM on April 6, 2008

I swear by honey-garlic cough syrups. Seriously.
posted by papafrita at 7:17 PM on April 6, 2008

Clarinex D recently proved useful in almost completely eliminating similar coughing my boyfriend's been having for months. He'd tried the above remedies (Mucinex DM, neti pot, humidifier) to little effect. Might be worth looking into!
posted by limeonaire at 8:18 PM on April 6, 2008

Ive had exactly the same thing since mid-February. Had a cold and kept coughing violently for weeks. Things that helped a bit were Mucinex, Halls, lots of tea and honey, and a vaporizer/humidifier by my bed. Other than that, I've just been waiting it out. I'm much better now but I still cough a little, and cold air gets me hacking.

It will probably get better by itself, but if you show no signs of improvement or if you feel you're getting even a little bit worse, I'd go to a doctor ASAP. Of course, it's probably a good idea regardless. IANAD and all that.

Hope you feel better. Coughing all the time does get tiring.
posted by walla at 9:19 PM on April 6, 2008

If it is walking pneumonia (mycoplasma pneumoniae) then it wouldn't necessarily have shown up when they listened to your lungs. They need to test blood for it - it's an atypical pneumonia. I was coughing for about ten weeks before mine was diagnosed - so badly that I had a semi-permanent headache for weeks from my head jerking when I coughed. It needed two runs of antibiotics because the first lot didn't get rid of it, and they also made me take a week sick leave since I was pretty stressed and working hard.

So I'm in the category of "don't wait till May". If that's what you've got, you may feel perfectly fine apart from the coughing, but the coughing itself is horribly debilitating.
posted by andraste at 10:23 PM on April 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had a similar cough for a YEAR. I didn't have stuff coming up (though I did vomit profusely because it set off my gag reflex, so how can you tell, I guess), but lying down would make me cough like hell. Hell, breathing and sitting made me cough like hell.

In the end, after trying antibiotics, Claritin, Flonase, TWO inhalers (at one point they decided I must be asthmatic because they really, really couldn't think of anything else it could be. As it turns out, I'm not), decongestants, etc., etc... what got rid of it was doing a lot of cardio exercise. It was gone within a month.

I don't know what exercise you do other than yoga (and yeah, coughing may still be a factor for you), but that was the ONLY thing that worked to get rid of mine. Good luck to you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:53 AM on April 7, 2008

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