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Summer catarrh

August 2017

man blowing his nose

If you live in the UK, we all know about summer cold, those bad weather days when the cloud, rain and wind sets in just when we had planned to wear our colourful lightweight clothes and go out and play!

But another irritation is a summer cold of the cough and sneeze variety and these can occur even in the warmest weather.  Even worse is when the cold triggers off catarrh. As we age we can become more susceptible to catarrh and it can become a real problem.

Catarrh is sometimes used simply to describe a heavy cold but it actually means the build up of mucus in an airway or cavity of the body.  It is often caused by our immune system reacting to the infection of a common cold but there can be other causes such as nasal polyps (fleshy growths in the nose) and other triggers. Whatever the reason, the result is that the linings of our nose and throat become swollen and we start producing this unwelcome mucus.

What we notice is a feeling of being blocked up; and when we blow our nose or clear our chest by coughing we can see we are producing a thick green or yellow mucus.  Sometimes it can give a headache or we can feel the mucus running down the back our throat.  It really can be extremely debilitating and lead to sleepless nights and a constant hacking coughing as we try and clear our airways.

The condition can be aggravated by the dry air in air conditioning and in smoky places, or by car heating and other allergens, so the first thing of course is to try and avoid anything that might make it worse.

Unfortunately there is no one easy treatment to stop catarrh although the good news for most people is that it generally will clear up on its own accord after a few days or weeks.

Taking sips of cold water when you feel you need to clear your throat and airways can help as constant coughing can aggravate the sensitive linings in your nose and throat. Inhaling used to be a big thing when we were kids and this can still be beneficial today, especially adding menthol crystals or eucalyptus oil to the hot water first before you breathe in the steam.

At the chemist there are a number of products that can help, including a saline nasal rinse,  decongestants, antihistamines and even steroid nasal sprays and the pharmacist will be able to advise you on these.

But there is no single solution that will work for everyone and when catarrh goes on and on without relief you may need to see your doctor.  The doctor may recommend a CT scan or even allergy testing to try and pinpoint the specific trigger that is causing the catarrh so that the best treatment can be worked out.

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