Angie SzumlinskiNews

Scenario: Long week, waiting on the jet bridge to board your flight and get home. Then it happens, someone starts coughing. Everyone turns and stares at this poor person who is coughing uncontrollably. This lasts for several minutes, everyone praying this person isn’t seated next to them on the flight. Several people pull out facemasks, others wish they had one! 

Let me ease your fears! In a recent article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, post-infectious cough can last 3-8 weeks, however, is not contagious. The previous infection triggers an inflammatory process, increasing bronchial sensitivity and mucus production while reducing mucus clearance. In lay person terms, the cough is chronic and has nothing to do with an active infection.  

Imran Satia, MD, assistant professor of respirology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada states that “most people who get a viral or bacterial upper or lower respiratory tract infection will get better with time, and there is very little evidence that giving steroids, antibiotics, or cough suppressants is better than waiting it out”. That said, if you have a lingering cough post-viral/bacterial infection, consider making an appointment with your primary care provider if you have any of these symptoms: 

  • Hemoptysis (blood in the sputum) 
  • Dysphagia (difficult swallowing) 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Hoarseness 

Also, any cough that lasts longer than 8 weeks is considered chronic and requires further assessment. If someone near you has a cough and you aren’t sure if they are infectious (sadly there are rude people who will travel, go to work, out to dinner, etc. when they have an active infection), step away, remember the 6 foot rule, mask if you are in close quarters and remember, you could be the next person with a chronic cough post infection so be kind. Stay well and stay informed! 

For more information:

Postinfectious cough in adults | CMAJ