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Nagging cough? Skip the antibiotic and get some sleep

Filed in
  • Immune System

By Thomas Heffron  |  Jan 14, 2013
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Is your nagging cough causing sleepless nights and aggravating co-workers during the day?  Be patient.  A new study shows that your cough may last longer than you expect.

But don’t ask your doctor for an antibiotic.  Instead, get some extra sleep.

The study examined how long a cough lasts.  The results were published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

The research involved an analysis of 19 studies of “acute cough illness.”  This included bronchitis, respiratory tract infections and chest colds.  The total study sample consisted of 1,230 patients.

Results show that the mean duration of a cough was almost 18 days.  The researchers decided to compare these results with public expectations.

So they surveyed nearly 500 adults in Georgia.  Participants were asked how long they expect a cough to last.  The average response was only about seven to nine days.

The authors suggest that this mismatch may explain why too many people ask for an antibiotic when they have a nagging cough.  Doctors can help by setting realistic expectations.  They should explain to patients that a cough can last for two to three weeks.

The CDC explains that a cold is a viral infection.  But antibiotics treat bacterial infections.  They have no effect on viral infections.

So what should you do instead?   The CDC advises you to get plenty of rest.  Sleep can help your body recover from a cold.  It also can help prevent you from getting sick in the first place.

The CDC also suggests using a clean humidifier when you have a cough.  The soothing, “white noise” of the machine also may help you sleep better.


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