It could be a bad cold that needs to stick out, or it could be something worse.
Why You Can’t Get Rid of Your Winter Cough
1. You take blood pressure medications
If you recently started a new regimen of blood pressure medications with ACE inhibitors, it could cause your cough to stay longer than you want. A cold is not the only thing that causes a chronic cough. At least 20 percent of patients develop a dry cough due to ACE inhibitors within a week of starting their medication, but it can sometimes take six months to appear.
The link between ACE inhibitors and cough remains a mystery, but some doctors suspect that it may be induced by a buildup of airway-stimulating irritants called bradykinin, substances that are generally metabolized by ACE. If the cough persists, ask your doctor about getting a new blood pressure medication.
2. You have asthma
Most often, people with asthma experience symptoms of shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and cough, but some people with asthma have cough as the only symptom, chronic cough can be caused by asthma. In fact, more than 90 percent of chronic cough cases (those lasting eight weeks or more) are caused by asthma, allergies, or acid reflux disease. If you experience a coughing fit that doesn’t stop, visit your doctor to find out if you’re sick or if the cause is an underlying health condition.
3. You don’t get a cold
The most common misconception that doctors see is the notion that the cough should go away on its own within a week. It can actually last for several weeks after a cold apparently goes away. A cold virus attacks your body in several ways (no two colds are the same), from congestion in the airways to causing inflammation in the nose and sinuses. That sinus inflammation can cause postnasal drip, triggering a persistent cough after a viral infection.
Minimize your cough symptoms as much as possible with over-the-counter medications. The only things that have been shown to manage a chronic cough related to a viral infection, asthma, or allergies are first-generation antihistamines. If you take enough of that, it will suppress your cough.
4. You don’t take care of your body
It is important to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night and a healthy diet when you are sick to help boost your body’s immune system. Rest when you first get sick, as physical activity can affect breathing, trigger asthma, and weaken your immune system when you need it most. Once the infections are gone and there is residual mucus and cough, try mild to moderate exercise (stay indoors if it is very hot or cold outside).
5. You have heartburn
Acid reflux is a common cause of chronic cough, but the link has also been debated. Some experts think that reflux-causing foods that cause heartburn can make a cough worse. Reflux disease, also called heartburn, can be a cause of chronic cough. If you have heartburn, you’ll want to avoid foods and drinks that can make reflux worse, such as alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and spicy foods. It is also important not to eat at least two hours before bed.
6. You overuse nasal sprays
Some nasal decongestant sprays like Afrin are great for a runny nose, but you should limit their use to no more than three days in a row to avoid a “rebound effect,” which can cause a cough. Excessive spraying exacerbates cough, congestion, and postnasal drip by swelling the nasal membranes. Rebound hyperemia is a rebound effect that makes you continue using it, you can become addicted. Your best option may be to try a dual-purpose pill that contains both an antihistamine and a decongestant. This dynamic duo cleanses mucus and opens the airways at the same time.
7. You suffer from a persistent cough after a cold
Postinflammatory bronchospasm is another type of post-cold cough that bears a strange resemblance to asthma. Your airways tighten, causing you to gasp and cough like an asthmatic person would, except that it’s actually just an unfortunate symptom of a cold. Doctors will often prescribe asthma medications like bronchodilators or steroids for up to four weeks to help you fight it.
8. You don’t drink enough liquids
Hot tea or water helps thin mucus in the airways, calming the cough. It doesn’t make the cough go away, but it makes you feel better. A wet cough is more comfortable than a dry cough. You could also try using a humidifier in your room to moisten the airways while you sleep.