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Jenny Paull asked...

I have had a persistent cough for five months.

Tags: allergy , asthma , copd

I have had a persistent cough for five months and saw a private consultant about two weeks ago. He prescribed a course of antibiotics which I finished about a week ago but don't seem to have had any effect. Is there a chance the antibiotics might start working eventually even though I finished them a week ago and have seen no improvement as yet?

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The answer

Chronic cough for more than 8 weeks is remarkably common, affecting up to 1 in 5 adults, and certainly a common complaint among my patients. It’s often initially caused by infection (either viral or bacterial) but sometimes your airways become hypersensitive even after the infection is gone. The most common causes include smoking, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and a postnasal drip down the back of your nose, which can be due to allergy or sinusitis. Obviously I don’t know all the details of your case, but if your consultant has covered all the possibilities above, I’d be tempted to trust his judgement.

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