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Coughing is your body’s way of protecting your airway by clearing it of irritants and thus protecting it from infection. But not all coughing signals an infection.


The key factor is the duration of the cough. If you have been coughing regularly for more than three weeks, it is less likely to be related to an infection and more likely due to things like allergies, acid reflux or asthma. That is why cold medicines are ineffective on longer-lasting coughs – because you likely don’t have a cold. Instead an antihistamine or acid-reducing medication may bring you relief. Your doctor can help make recommendations with a better understanding of your symptoms.

Progression Of Symptoms

If your symptoms worsen after a few days of being on over-the-counter cold medicines, you could have a bacterial infection, especially if you are experiencing chills, have a fever or are coughing up a lot a phlegm, especially blood-tinged phlegm. Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection.

Be Aware Of Whooping Cough

Whooping cough tends to cause an epidemic every three to five years in the U.S. It usually starts out as a common cold, but then a week or so after becoming sick, your coughing becomes so intense that it can be hard to catch your breath or you may feel like throwing up. If your cough is that strong, you need to see your doctor to be evaluated for whooping cough. You can protect yourself from this disease  by getting a vaccination booster. You should get a vaccination booster even if you were vaccinated as a child, as the effectiveness of the vaccine has been shown to wear off in adults.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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