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Cough self–care

Cough

Coughing is your body’s way of removing foreign material or mucous from your lungs and upper airway passages, or of reacting to an irritated or inflamed lining of the airway.

It is normal to have a productive cough (coloured sputum) with a common cold. Coughing is triggered by mucus draining down the back of your throat. A non-productive cough is a dry, often hacking cough that may develop at the end of a cold or after exposure to an irritant.

The average total length of a viral cough can be up to 3-4 weeks.

Self–care when you have a cough

  • Breathe warm, moist air (humidified), such as in the bathroom while the shower is running
  • Warm soothing liquids help relieve coughing spasms - apple juice or a mixture of lemon and honey (half a teaspoon of each) is soothing. Drink lots of fluids: water, herbal teas, soups
  • Over-the-counter cough medicine from your pharmacist may help.( there is little evidence for their effectiveness)
  • Coughing up mucus is important to protect your lungs against pneumonia, so take a cough suppressant only if you are finding it hard to sleep
  • Elevate the head of your bed or sleep propped up on pillows
  • Avoid exposure to smoke
  • Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water and put 2 or 3 drops in each nostril, then blow your nose. This can help clear mucus and soothe your cough
  • Get plenty of rest, taking time away from lectures/work reduces the spread of infection and helps you to recover
  • Practice good hand  and cough hygiene
  • Let your College CCL/Warden or flat mates/friends know you are unwell

When to see your doctor

Most viral coughs can last 3-4 weeks and you probably won’t need to see a doctor.  However, you should see your doctor if you get any of these symptoms with your cough:

  • causes shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain or you cough up blood
  • seems to have no cause
  • lasts for more than 4 weeks
  • a cough that gets worse or becomes painful
  • a temperature of 38.6°C or higher that lasts more than 2 days      
  • if your lips, skin or nails look blue, or you’re feeling confused, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible                                                      

Meningitis

Meningitis is a bacterial disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis. There are various groups of bacteria including groups A, B, C, Y and W.

  • 1-2 people in 10 who survive have long term complications
  • 1-2 people out of every 10 will die

Those most at risk are:

  • adolescents and young adults aged between 15-19 years
  • smokers
  • those living in residential colleges and crowded accommodation
  • binge drinking
  • having another respiratory condition eg influenza
  • having a condition affecting the immune system
  • Māori and Pacific ethnicity

Symptoms of meningitis can develop suddenly and include:

  • a high fever
  • headache
  • sleepiness
  • confusion
  • abdominal pain
  • joint and muscle pains.
  • a stiff neck
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting
  • a rash consisting of reddish-purple pin-prick spots or bruises that don’t fade with pressure

What to do       

  • if you or your friend/ family are worried you are seriously ill, get medical attention straight away or call an ambulance by dialing 111
  • say what the symptoms are
  • you can also call Healthline free on 0800 611 116, 24 hours a day – even if you have already been seen by a health professional
  • vaccination reduces the risk and is very effective – For more info www.immune.org.nz

NOTE: Meningitis ACWY vaccination is free for 13 to 25 year old residents in college accommodation

Useful contacts

  • Student Health
    Tel 0800 479 821
    Open Mon–Fri 8:30- 5pm
    Wed 9:45am start
    Evenings 5pm to 8:30pm semester only
  • Healthline – nurse advice 24/7
    Tel 0800 611 116
  • Or go to
    • Dunedin Urgent Doctor and Accident Centre – 18 Filleul Street  8am–10pm
    • Emergency Department( emergencies only) Dunedin Hospital- Great King Street, Dunedin