How long should you have a cough following bronchitis?

How long should you have a cough following bronchitis?  There was a great new article (I encourage you to read the actual article: link)  in USA Today detailing that a large majority of individuals don’t know the answer to this question. These individuals get  colds and coughs that last longer than they THINK they should.

The title of the article is perfect: Coughing for Two Weeks? You still don’t need an antibiotic.

The article is actually detailing research published in the Annals of Family Medicine. From that research , most people think they should be over a cough in 7-8 days. However, a cough caused by acute cough illness (ACI) commonly diagnosed as acute bronchitis, normally lasts upwards of 18 days.

This research then details that if the cough lasts longer than what is expected, we self-diagnose with a more severe disease such as pneumonia.

This is “because it isn’t normal for a cough to last that long”. This last sentence  is a direct quote from my sister with this exact problem. She had a cold. Her cough lasted longer than what she thought it should. She then made an appointment with a doctor, who told her she had a cold,  did NOT have pneumonia or any other serious problem.

He then prescribed her an antibiotic to take if she wanted to, or if she felt it was necessary. She called me because she knows I am a fanatic about improper use of antibiotics. What did I tell her to do? I asked her how bad her cough was (Not bad, but it had been going on since New Years). I asked her what her doctor said (no pneumonia, probably a cold). Then I told her to hang on to the prescription, but to get rest, drink a lot of  fluids and eat chicken soup.  I guaranteed her that she would feel better in three days without antibiotics.

Did she get better? Absolutely. Did she need antibiotics? Absolutely not. What was the best prescription for her? It really comes down to that so many of the things your Granny told you to do (as well as the Mayo Clinic) were right. Get lots of fluids, plenty of rest (this may actually mean taking a couple of days off work!! Yes, they will survive without you for a few days) and eat chicken soup.

More on this as the cold and flu season progresses.


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