That annoying cough

So, I started to cough. I’m coming down with a cold I thought, but no, I did not develop a runny nose nor a temperature. The cough got worse. I coughed throughout the day without many breaks. It left me breathless. It was difficult to talk as I didn’t have much breath left for that. And then my voice was affected. I sounded like I had a forty a day habit – I don’t.

I did the sort of things you do for a cough. I bought some lozenges that said on the packaging they were for coughs. They tasted nice – blackcurrant flavour – but they didn’t stop me coughing. I tried some ones that were definitely masquerading as medicinal – they tasted foul. They didn’t help either.

I went to the chemist and they recommended a cough medicine. It didn’t stop me coughing. I was now spending my days coughing, gasping for breath and sleeping as I was exhausted from coughing.

I phoned the surgery. I was given a time for the GP to phone me back the next day. After asking my symptoms, he shared his thoughts. It was possible I had a chest infection. It was also possible that I had had asymptomatic Covid that had not been picked up on the lateral flow tests that I had taken, and that this was a post Covid cough.

To be on the safe side, he prescribed anti-biotics, just in case it was a chest infection. I was to phone the surgery if I was not better at the end of the five day course.

At this stage I was looking for advice on managing my cough, so I checked out the NHS website. They have a wealth of useful information and I was pleasantly surprised by their suggestions. I thought I would share them here as I suspect there may be many other people struggling with coughs at the moment. My GP said they were seeing lots of people with that cough.

Ways to help a dry cough

  • keep yourself well hydrated by drinking small amounts often throughout the day
  • soothe your throat by drinking a warm drink, such as honey and lemon
  • take small sips of liquid if you feel yourself starting to cough
  • suck a sugary sweet if you feel yourself starting to cough
  • try swallowing repeatedly if you have a cough and don’t have a drink near you

I love that these suggestions are so simple yet effective. The honey and lemon drink is an old favourite for many people. I add ginger to my version, throwing chunks of ginger in with the lemons, bringing to the boil then simmering. I add sweeteners to make it palatable, though you could add sugar, if like me you aren’t keen on honey.

Sucking a sugary sweet really does help. My son produced a paper bag of cola cubes from the sweetie shop at Blist’s Hill museum. Much appreciated. They worked better than the lozenges designed specifically for that purpose.

I keep water on the table next to me in the living room, the bedroom and in the kitchen, and at the first sign of that urge to cough I glug away.

The NHS site also gives tips on breathing to help with the breathlessness.

Breathing techniques to reduce breathlessness

Breathing control

  1. Sit in a relaxed position in a chair with your back well supported.
  2. Place one hand on your tummy.
  3. Slowly take a deep breath in through your nose.
  4. As you breathe in, allow your tummy to rise up.
  5. As you breathe out slowly, feel your tummy relax down.

This may take some practice but can be very useful to help reduce breathlessness.

Pursed lip breathing

This can be useful to control breathlessness when you’re walking or being more active.

Take a breath in through your nose. Gently breathe out through your mouth with your lips pursed, just like when you’re whistling or blowing out a candle. Try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in.

Blow as you go

Breathe in before you start to move, then breathe out when you’re making a big effort, such as bending down, lifting something heavy or going up stairs.

This is information shared from the NHS website which I have found helpful. However, if you are unwell, you should speak to a doctor. A cough can be an indicator of other illnesses. I saw my GP again today and she listened to my lungs to check for a chest infection and also to rule out heart problems. She reviewed the results of a recent blood test.

Having ruled out other potential problems, she concluded that I have irritation of the lungs following a viral infection that should settle itself down over the next few weeks. She advised that this cough could last for up to six weeks.

I will be glad to see the back of it. Although I am not infectious, it is embarrassing coughing away in public in the current climate. To anyone else struggling with a cough, I hope you find this information useful. I feel for you and wish you a speedy recovery.

Portland Jones, disability liaison for Pagan Federation Midlands