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Nagging cough from a cold may last longer than you think

Cough from cold may last longer than you think
Cough from cold may last longer than you think 01:41

MIAMI - It's cold, flu and COVID season. If you feel like you've been coughing for weeks, you're not alone.

A new report looks at just how long it's typical for that hacking to stick around, and what you can do about it.

The article, in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, said coughing after respiratory infections is common and that a post-viral cough can last anywhere from three to eight weeks.

Navi Gill had a bad cold in September but the one symptom that lingered was her cough.

"It was debilitating. It would like keep me up at night and I was like coughing throughout work and had to keep explaining to people that I wasn't sick," she said.

To get some relief, she tried cough medicine.

"It didn't really do anything. It still lasted like about six weeks, despite me trying all these, you know, medications," said Gill.

Family physician Dr. Kevin Liang was not surprised.

"We look at evidence all the way from asthma puffers, to some of that over-the-counter medications to codeine, and it really shows none of these work effectively. Then in trials that have run, most patients with post-infectious cough, have their cough resolved on their own without any treatments at all," he said.

Dr. Liang pointed out that some of those treatments can also have nasty side effects and be expensive.

Up to a quarter of adults can experience that cough that sticks around after a respiratory infection, but if it goes on longer than eight weeks, see a doctor.

"Fever, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, or even voice changes. So if you're at all worried, it's not a bad idea to check in with your doctor, just to see if it could be something else that's causing that cough," said Dr. Liang.

"I've always thought it was normal to have a cough after a cold, but I didn't think it was normal for it to last that long," said Gill.

She said next time she'll keep in mind it's just a matter of time.

If you have a history of recurrent pneumonia or an extended history of smoking, it's also a good idea to get a lingering cough checked out.

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