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When Coughs Cross the Line: Simple Sniffles, or Something Serious?

Article / Review by on January 24, 2012 – 9:26 pmNo Comments

When Coughs Cross the Line: Simple Sniffles, or Something Serious?

When Coughs Cross the Line: Simple Sniffles, or Something Serious?

It’s that time of year. Your home, school, or office sounds like a veritable orchestra of sniffles, coughs and sneezes.

Between the frantic tissue-grabbing, you might wonder: How do I know if the congestion is normal, or if it’s indicative of something worse? How long should I slog through symptoms before calling a doctor for advice?

These are all-too-common questions — so this week, we wanted to share some common sense, courtesy of URMC pulmonologist (lung disease specialist) Dr. Irene Perillo. In this week’s video post, she gives telltale symptoms (colored phlegm, long-lasting fevers and more) that might suggest something besides a simple cold virus is afoot. The knowledge is vital, she adds, since a cough that lingers too long might be evidence that a secondary bacterial infection — like pneumonia — has taken hold.

To hear Dr. Perillo, watch the clip below.

Did you know?

Though a cough that hangs around too long might actually be worth worrying about, most are short-lived, and caused by one of three common triggers:

1)      Post-nasal drip. If a cold virus has your nose running like a faucet, it’s possible that some of that congestion is tickling the back of your throat – prompting your throat muscles to cough in attempt to expel the irritant.

2)      Heart burn. Reflux disease (or GERD) – a chronic condition in which acid accidentally flows backward from the stomach and into the windpipe – also can irritate the throat, prompting coughing spells.

3)      Cough-variant asthma. Sometimes, asthma suffers don’t just wheeze – they cough if exposed to certain triggers, like heavy perfume or even cold air.

To learn about the care URMC provides to patients with pulmonary diseases – or for information on making an appointment with a specialist – click here

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*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by University of Rochester Medical Center

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University of Rochester Medical Center

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