With cold and flu cases reaching all-time highs this season, millions of Americans have found themselves coughing, sneezing, and sniffling at record rates. While the most serious symptoms of bouts with colds and the flu, such as fever and congestion, will go away after a few days, a cough can linger for nearly three weeks. However, despite the lengthy recovery time, coughs can continue to progress and stubbornly refuse to improve. Here are seven common reasons why your cough might not be getting better.
Irritated Airways Caused by a Cold or Flu
The most common reason for a persistent cough has to do with why you have the cough, to begin with. Depending on the severity of the cold or flu, your airway may have become swollen and oversensitive. Even though the virus that caused you cough has long since left your body, the irritation it caused to your airways can linger for weeks or months. Until your airways return to normal, your cough will continue to persist.
Numerous studies have shown that stress, especially when consistent, can weaken a person’s immune system. This can result in longer recovery times when trying to overcome an illness. To kick your cough to the curb, you need to reduce outside stress factors while sick. Pushing yourself too hard by succumbing to the pressures of stress will only just make you sicker. One way you can attempt to reduce stress is to get more sleep at night.
It becomes especially important that you keep yourself hydrated when dealing with either a cold or flu. By drinking soup broth, juice, and water you help to loosen the mucus that built up in your airways, allowing you to cough it up and out more easily. However, not all liquids work well at keeping you hydrated. Drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages can dehydrate you, especially when sick.
Excessive Use of Nasal Spray
If your cold or flu has caused you to experience congestion, you might find yourself relying on over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays in order to help you breathe. While these sprays can help in the short term, be careful not to use them for more than three days. Excessive use of sprays can cause your nasal membranes to swell, triggering additional congestion, coughing, and postnasal drip.
Breathing Dry Air
One of the hallmarks of the winter season is cold, dry air, which can irritate a cough when breathed regularly. While dry air doesn’t help rid you of a cough, ratcheting up the humidifier isn’t the answer to your problems, either. Moist air can actually trigger asthma and encourage the growth of mold and dust mites; two types of allergens that may cause you to start coughing.
One of the hallmarks of the winter season is cold, dry air, which can irritate a cough when breathed regularly. While dry air doesn’t help rid you of a cough, ratcheting up the humidifier isn’t the answer to your problems, either. Moist air can actually trigger asthma and encourage the growth of mold and dust mites, two types of allergens that may cause you to start coughing.
Ideally, you should strive to maintain a humidity level in your home around 40 to 50 percent during the winter months.
Occasionally, about with a cold or flu can leave behind a lingering guest. When your airway becomes raw and irritated due to an illness, bacteria have an easier time invading these passages. Bacterial infections can cause a number of coughs causing illnesses, including bronchitis, sinus infections, and pneumonia. If you are suffering from pain along with your lingering cough, you may have a bacterial infection. You should schedule an appointment with a doctor, as you may need antibiotics to fully deal with the illness.
Underlying Health Problem
At times, a lingering cough has nothing to do with a cold or flu but is caused by a separate underlying health problem. Acid reflux, sleep apnea, asthma, and allergies can all cause a chronic persistent cough to develop. You may need to consult a doctor is your cough persists without the presence of symptoms normally associated with a cold or flu.