I’ve been postponing this Anxiometer post for at least a year. People periodically call me to chat or come visit when they are on week two or three of a cold, and they just can’t shake their lingering hacks. Finally, I’m ready to confess. When it comes to making coughs disappear, we in medicine are woefully ineffective.
Most folks seem to be aware that coughs are generally viral. However, many remain convinced that they get better quicker with antibiotics; the Z-Pak being a crowd favorite. Unfortunately, sometimes patients are right, because a small fraction of nagging coughs today do represent a resurgence of Pertussis (whooping cough), which is bacterial and does benefit.
We in medicine know that we won’t be dinged for over prescribing Z-Paks (not yet anyways). And we know it’s a drag to spend 5-10 minutes talking about viral illnesses, only to read on Yelp “… and I only got better after I went to the urgent care where I found a smarter doctor who would actually write for an antibiotic!”
Sadly, most OTCs aren’t very effective either. Read linked article “The New Cough and Cold Products for Children: Evidence is Optional and Science is Marketing“.
More important are the following: