Starting The New Year Off With A Cough

coughYep, this is me.  Be thankful you can see or hear me right now.  I’m frequently hacking and coughing.  Unfortunately, I have been overcome with a cold to start 2018.   This was NOT in my list of New Year’s Resolutions.

I started feeling some of those early signs last week and tried to fight it off with Zicam and other preventive measures but by Saturday, I did the unexpected.  I went to a walk-in clinic.  I say it is unexpected because I am usually in denial that I am sick until it really gets bad and I am forced to surrender.  My wife talked into going to the clinic early and as we hoped to get some help.

When I arrived at the clinic, I wasn’t alone.  The place was not packed but people there with the same issues I was having.  If there’s one thing I do not want to do when I am sick is carry on a conversation with anyone – especially strangers.  Wouldn’t you know it, a lady walks in with and sits down near me and proceeds to get into everyone’s business.  She already had all of us diagnosed with the flu.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to endure this long before my name was called to see the real doctor.

Of course, the first thing they assume is that it is the flu.  So whether or not you have had the flu shot, they stick these long chop sticks up your nose and swab your brain to get a sample to test with.  Not the most pleasant of tests.  It was also funny that the doctor said that it didn’t matter if you had the flu shot because they think they didn’t get the right strain again this year.

The flu test was negative so their next thought was that I could have strep throat.  Again they get the chopsticks out and jam them to the back of your throat.  The nurse commented, “You’re a fighter.”  Seriously?  You stick those oversized Q-tips into someone’s throat and you think they are going to be still?

Well, this test came back positive for strep throat.   For the next 24-48 hours I was contagious so when I returned home, I was quarantined.  I wanted to be careful not to pass it on to my wife.  That would be worst than the sickness itself.  The strep is gone now but has changed to what we usually call “the crud”.   So, as I go through this time of sickness, I had some questions that came to mind about all of this:

What is Strep Throat?

Strep Throat is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by direct contact with the mucus or sores of someone else with strep.  (Now, that’s just gross)   So if anyone sneezes or coughs, the infection is sent flying airborne.  Common symptoms that you have strep throat include sore throat, fever and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.  This is a very common thing as more than 3 million people catch it each year.  Strep Throat is treatable.  Usually through oral antibiotics.

What causes coughing?

The most common cause of a cough is a respiratory tract infection such as a cold or flu.  This kind of cough is caused by mucus (again, gross) dripping down the throat from the back of the nose.  That dripping stimulates the throat to get that “tickle” which causes you to cough.  (Which I just demonstrated if you could hear me)

Why do I have to blow my nose 200 times a day?

You would think you could just blow your nose one good time and clear it all our right?  If you have a cold, it doesn’t matter how much you blow your nose.  You will continue to make new mucus.  The underlying cause is allergies, a virus or bacteria.  Some other suggestions I have found that might help:

  • Sit in a steam room or shower.  Steam will help break up the mucus.
  • Eat hot and spicy foods.
  • Stay hydrated with non-caffeinated drinks.
  • Use a neti pot to help flush mucus out of the nasal passages.
  • Use a nasal spray but beware that they can become addictive.

So is there a proper way to blow your nose?  The recommended method is to blow gently one nostril at a time.

Why is coughing worse at night when I’m trying to sleep?

Gravity.  The biggest reason our cough gets worse at night is when we lie down flat, we allow the mucus to drip and collect in the back of the throat.   It is recommended that you sleep with a pillow propping you up or using a wedge pillow to counteract the gravitational pull of snot.

I will tell you that last night I slept better and didn’t have as many coughing spells when I propped up my pillows and used Delsym Cough medicine before going to bed.   I still had some coughing but I managed to get in more sleep than the past two nights.

How can I get over this cold faster?

While there aren’t any guarantees, there are some things that can help you recover faster:

  • Get some rest.  Your body uses more energy to fight off sicknesses.
  • Go to bed.  Lack of sleep makes your immune system weaker.
  • Lots of fluids.  Getting plenty of fluids thins your mucus and breaks up the congestion.
  • Gargle with saltwater.  Stir one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water until it’s dissolved. This will help with sore throat.
  • Drink some hot tea. Research shows that the heat from herbal tea can ease cold symptoms.
  • Honey.  A half a tablespoon of honey at bedtime also helps with nighttime coughing.
  • Steam.  Helps with loosening the mucus.

Is there any ONE good over-the-counter drug for me?

I’m not a doctor but what I have experienced is that you just have to try different ones to see what works best for you.  What works for one may not work the same from someone else.   One trip to the drug store and you could be reading for hours and comparing different medications.  So, there really isn’t one that fixes it all.  You have to treat the underlying symptoms if the over-the-counter drug is going to be helpful to you.

If you’re like me, you don’t like being sick.  It isn’t exactly something you can schedule.  I don’t have patience with the recovery time.  Most would say that I’m an impatient patient.  This is true.  I want to be cured and over with this instead of hanging on for days.  It’s best to just give in and ride it out.  This too will pass.

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