Thousands of people across the UK are ‘ill with cold and cough-like symptoms’ that just won’t clear up

‘Long colds’ are becoming increasingly common
The festive period may be over but winter still has a couple of months to go, which means there are still plenty of coughs and colds going around.

After a week where we’ve all be socialising with family and friends (along with plenty of eating and drinking) it’s no surprise if a few of you are feeling a bit worse for wear at the start of January.

Just like every year, coughs and runny noses are probably soundtracking a lot of your day.

Whilst most of the time these illnesses will clear up after a few days, for many the symptoms hang around for weeks on end.

On social media, one person wrote: “On my 3rd week of cold and constantly coughing to the point I’m sick. And the stomach pains are horrendous. Just wish it would clear up.”

Another said: “My 10 year old has had a persistent cough for 7 weeks now. Nothing clears it.”

“Every time I get rid of it a few days later it’s back again,” someone else commented.

A fourth said they were on they’d had a “cough and cold for three weeks now.”

Meanwhile, the number of flu patients in hospital in England is at more than 1,300, and the number of patients testing positive for Covid-19 has increased for the fifth week running.
Colds are less severe than flu and Covid, but for some the symptoms are still sticking around for weeks on end.

Speaking to Health, Russ Wasylyshyn, from the University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine, said the typical cold lasts up to 10 days.

However, for one in four cold patients the symptoms can last up to two weeks, and for some it can even even be up to four weeks.

Dr. Marwan Azar, an infectious diseases physician at Yale Medicine, told HuffPost: “If you have ongoing cold symptoms, such as a recurring cough or an irritated throat for longer than two weeks, it’s generally not because of a persistent infection but due to consequences of lingering inflammation from a cleared infection, specifically postnasal drip.”

Postnasal drip is when your body produces mucus in your sinuses and nasal cavities, which then drips down the back of your throat. This is usually what causes the tickle that makes you cough.

Because it takes time for your immune system to get rid of all the mucus, the congestion can hang around for up to a week after you’ve actually got rid of the cold virus from your system.

But ‘long colds’ are a thing, with research from Queen Mary University London finding that the most commons symptoms of the ‘long cold’ are coughing, stomach pain and diarrhoea more than four weeks after initial infection.

The main factor in how long symptoms hang around for is usually the severity of infection, but the research said more work needs to be done to establish why some people suffer more than others.

Study lead author Giulia Vivaldi said: “These ‘long’ infections are so difficult to diagnose and treat primarily because of a lack of diagnostic tests and there being so many possible symptoms.”

Professor Adrian Martineau, Chief Investigator of COVIDENCE UK, said: “Our findings may chime with the experience of people who have struggled with prolonged symptoms after having a respiratory infection despite testing negative for Covid-19 on a nose or throat swab.”

The NHS says you should see a doctor about a cold if:

your symptoms do not improve after 3 weeks

your symptoms get suddenly worse

your temperature is very high or you feel hot and shivery

you’re concerned about your child’s symptoms

you’re feeling short of breath or develop chest pain

you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes, or a heart, lung or kidney condition

you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you’re having chemotherapy

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