Ah, the cough. The cough that makes us truly appreciate our throats. Coughing is a normal reflex. The basic function of a cough is to remove anything foreign or unwanted in your respiratory tract. But persistent coughing or painful coughing is usually indicative of something more than just a normal reflex.When it comes to a cough, please make sure that you consult a doctor if the cough is bothering you, associated with flu or fever or has lasted for more than 3 days.
With a cough, there are things that the doctor will ask you about and things that you need to be aware of.
First : the duration of the cough. How long have you been coughing like this and is this the first time you have had a cough like this. Next : are you producing any phlegm (kahak in bahasa)?
If you are, note the colour, amount and if you notice any blood. After that the doctor may ask about shortness of breath, chest pain, flu symptoms etc. And then they will ask about smoking, living environment and all that (if they see it relevant).
However, typically the most common (and less severe) causes of cough in Malaysia are as following : common cold and pneumonia.
- Common cold
The common cold refers to the cough and possibly a flu. It is an airborne virus that is scattered all around us. It is a typical cold that just comes and goes. It is nothing to be afraid of. It is self-limiting as we call it. Although there is no cure for the common cold : the symptoms for the cold are treatable.
This means that the cough and the flu can be taken care of with medications. And a lot of fluids and rest are required to help take the common cold away. A cough, in a common cold, usually lasts around 3 days with some phlegm produced (green-yellow colour) and it will go away on its own.
Pneumonia is more of a lung infection. The name sounds scary, and the silent “p" also makes it sounds more scary. But do not let that fool you. Yes, it is an infection. But it can also be taken care of, if treated correctly. A cough in pneumonia usually lasts for about 3-7 days and the cough produced phlegm (green-yellow) and sometimes the person who has it can have difficulty breathing when laying down.
But it is self-limiting as well. The doctor will usually prescribe some antibiotics and by the end of the course, you should be all back to normal. Pneumonia is best treated right away, leaving it till the last minute could do your lungs more harm than good.
Know that pneumonia can sometimes be community-acquired, meaning that someone who was affected may have spread it. Because the organism for pneumonia is airborne, a simple cough in the air could have spread the infection.
Although these are the common causes of coughs, there are more causes which are more severe. So it is important that you are able to distinguish a normal, self-limiting cough with a severe cough that could indicate something else.
This is why cough etiquette is so important. We want to limit and decrease the amount of people who contract the infection. This can be facilitated by a proper cough etiquette. This is what they taught you in primary school. When you want to cough, always cover your mouth with your hand and cough. Then, wash your hands thoroughly.
If you want to take it one step further, if you know that you have a cough : then just wear a face mask for the time being (until the cough subsides). Another one is limit the places you go to.
The more places you go, the more people you meet, and the more crowded you are amongst others : the more chance of the infection to be spread. So therefore, if you can : try to stay at home and rest until the cough is gone.
Article is written by:
Fatin Najwa binti Daud, is a medical student studying at IMU Malaysia. She is a freelance writer of this blog at Zaahara. Interests include music, art, sports and travel.
-Photos are taken from google images
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