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June 16, 2024

Persistent Coughs Plague New Yorkers As Flu, COVID, RSV Surge

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Jan 19, 2024

Respiratory viruses lead to ‘violent coughing’ lasting weeks

A mysterious wave of dry, persistent coughs is gripping New York City residents this winter as an intense triple threat of respiratory viruses circulates at high levels. Flu, RSV, and COVID-19 are simultaneously fueling a surge of coughing that just won’t quit, puzzling doctors and concerning health experts.

The onslaught of viruses is leading to weeks-long coughing fits described by some as “violent” and “prickly.” For parents like Janelle Thompson, the cough that overtook her twin 5-year-old boys in late December is seemingly never-ending.

“They cough all through the day and night,” said Thompson. “It’s dry and hacking and doesn’t seem to be getting any better, no matter what we do.”

Lingering coughs lasting over 3 weeks

Doctors say coughs triggered by viruses like flu or COVID can stubbornly linger for over 3 weeks in some cases.

“Coughing is a protective reflex to clear irritants from the airways,” said Dr. Anuja Rastogi, a lung specialist at Northwell Health on Long Island. “Viral infections can leave nerve endings in the airways overly sensitive for weeks afterward, causing chronic dry coughs.”

Rastogi said several of her patients have battled coughs lasting over a month after catching the flu around Christmas.

Coughs are likely persisting longer this season due to the triple viral threat, experts say. Cases of flu, RSV, and COVID are all elevated in New York currently:

Virus Cases in NY % Increase vs. Prior Year
Flu 52,000 +500%
RSV 39,000 +300%
COVID 1,300,000 +5%

With so many viruses circulating simultaneously, more New Yorkers are getting infected with multiple pathogens – prolonging symptoms like cough.

“We’re seeing a lot of co-infections where people catch flu, then COVID, then RSV – it’s like viral ping pong,” said Dr. Stanley Weiss, an epidemiologist at Rutgers University. “Each re-triggering of the immune system can spur another round of coughing.”

When to seek medical care

For those battling stubborn coughs, experts say it’s reasonable to give it three weeks after the initial infection before seeking medical care.

“We generally recommend seeing a doctor if a post-viral cough persists for more than three weeks or if it’s interfering with work or sleep,” said Dr. Mallika Marshall, a physician in Boston.

However, if the cough is accompanied by severe shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, fever, or coughing up blood – medical attention should be sought urgently. Parents of infants should also monitor coughing carefully, as respiratory distress can escalate rapidly in babies.

Doctors have a variety of tools to diagnose and treat extended bouts of coughing:

  • Chest X-ray to check for pneumonia or other complications
  • Spirometry tests to evaluate lung function
  • Prescriptions like inhalers or steroids to reduce airway inflammation
  • Referral to pulmonary specialists if underlying lung disease is suspected

OTC cough suppressants are generally not recommended for chronic coughs as they treat the symptom rather than the root cause.

Bracing for more coughing ahead

Unfortunately, the coughing crisis may get worse before it gets better. Flu activity continues escalating nationwide, with health officials bracing for a peak later this month. COVID hospitalizations are also rising in multiple states as new Omicron subvariants take hold.

“We expect coughs and other respiratory symptoms could remain very common through February,” said Dr. Angela Calman, a physician at Mayo Clinic. “Avoiding infection in the first place is key – so keep up preventive habits like masking, hand hygiene and staying home when sick.”

For New Yorker Janelle Thompson and her persistently coughing twins, the end of the tunnel remains distant.

“We are anxiously counting down the days until this nasty cough finally clears,” said Thompson. “I’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief when I don’t hear coughing all night long.”

What to do if your cough won’t quit

  • See a doctor if cough lasts >3 weeks
  • Try honey or throat lozenges to soothe irritation
  • Use a humidifier to ease dry irritated airways
  • Stay well hydrated and get adequate rest
  • Avoid irritants like smoke or strong scents
  • Over-the-counter medications are not generally recommended
  • Seek urgent care for severe symptoms like wheezing or chest tightness

So for New Yorkers plagued by chronic coughs – patience and self-care are prescribed, until this viral storm finally passes.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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