Can't rid yourself of a hacking cough Don't worry, the average one lasts up to THREE WEEKS
Sufferers expect a bad cough to be gone in seven to nine days, reveals surveyBut studies reveal they are likely to last twice as longDoctors 'are too ready to prescribe antibiotics'

Daily Mail Reporter


11:30 GMT, 15 January 2013



11:30 GMT, 15 January 2013

Can't stop the cough The average one lasts 18 days

Can't stop the cough The average one subsides after 18 days

People who suffer from an irritating throat tickle that hangs around for weeks may have nothing to worry about, say researchers.

They found that the average cough takes three weeks to clear up – yet sufferers demand antibiotics long before this.

The survey by the team from the University of Georgia found that people wrongly expect their cough to be gone in about a week.

Writing in the Annals of Family Medicine, the scientists said over-prescribing antibiotics wouldn't speed recovery but would fuel drug resistance and increase the risk of side effects.

Research leader, Mark Ebell, said: 'We're not trying to discourage people from getting care if they feel they need it, but at the same time we want to give them the confidence to give themselves care in situations when it's appropriate.

For the study, Ebell and his colleagues did a telephone survey of 493 adults in Georgia about how long they'd expect a cough to last if they had a fever of 38C and were bringing up yellow mucous.

Overall, people said they'd expect the cough to take between 7 and 9 days to clear up.

The team then reviewed 19 previous
studies on severe coughs that recorded how long the condition actually
lasted. In those studies, it took a cough – on average – 17.8 days to


Commonly prescribed antibiotic amoxicillin does nothing to help treat coughs and could be harmful if used when it is not needed, according to experts from Southampton University.

Amoxicillin is given to people with respiratory infections, including coughs, and treats bacterial infections of the chest, urine or ear, and dental abscesses.

But researchers say taking the prescription drug to treat infection may do more harm than good, leading to side effects such as diarrhoea, rash, vomiting and the development of resistance.

Amoxicillin is commonly used to treat coughs accompanied by lower respiratory tract symptoms (LTRI), and although viruses are believed to cause most of these infections, whether or not antibiotics are effective in treating them is still hotly debated.

'I think it is important to understand that if you do get a cough you're probably going to be coughing for about three weeks,' said Harvard's Jeffrey Linder, who was not involved in the study but has done similar research.

'Also, there is evidence out there that getting an antibiotic at any point in the course is not going to make it shorter,' he added to Reuters.

According to the researchers, about half of U.S patients with an acute cough in 2006 were prescribed an antibiotic. But most respiratory infections are caused by viruses, while antibiotics only affect bacteria.

Ebell said that patients should call their doctors if they bring up blood when they cough or are short of breath, while Linder said they should also do so if their cough lasts longer than a month or gets worse.

'There are over-the-counter things I recommend to people to feel better, bur the main treatment is time.'

It's important to note that the NHS recommends those who have had a bad cough for three weeks or more should see their doctor for a check-up, as it could be a warning sign of lung cancer.