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Average Duration of Cough: 18 days!

Posted Jan 18 2013 3:00am
What's a coincidence ?  An event that occurs contemporaneously with another although they have nothing to do w/each other.  In other words, there's no cause & effect relationship between the two.  That's why it's so difficult to properly interpret observational studies: the findings only demonstrate coincidence but they never prove cause & effect, as much as it might seem to make sense.  And because of that "Duh!" factor, we just want to jump to conclusions.

So when does this occur in our daily lives?  Have you ever asked your family doctor for antibiotics for a cold because they worked last time?  Remember how you coughed for a few days and then waited a long time in the waiting room before cajoling your doc into prescribing you antibiotics?  And then miraculously, your cough disappeared a few days later, right?  That's why you want another antibiotic prescription for that scratchy throat you feel coming on, right?  Wrong!

In a systematic review of the literature regarding upper respiratory illnesses & acute cough published this week in Annals of Family Medicine , the authors concluded that the average duration of cough was just under 18 days while 493 adults guessed anywhere from 5-9 days.  In other words, if those same adults had received a useless placebo, they would still have gotten better 9 days after finishing the course of sugar pills.  More likely, they didn't finish the antibiotics but rather saved some for next time, thereby increasing their risk for bacterial resistance.  So choose wisely & think twice before asking for antibiotics for that cold.

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