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Relief for your hacking cough and sore throat

Bookmark and Share It starts as a hacking cough that suppressants just won't relieve. You try to speak and only a whisper comes out. Even worse, you have difficulty breathing, and simple activities leave you short of breath.

These bothersome symptoms are all signs of an upper respiratory infection. Upper respiratory infections account for more doctor visits and absences from work or school than any other illness. They are highly contagious and usually occur during the cold, winter months. The most common upper respiratory infections include bronchitis, pharyngitis and laryngitis. So, how do you know which condition you have and what treatment to expect?

Learn the differences
"Bronchitis, pharyngitis and laryngitis are usually caused by viruses like the ones that cause the common cold or flu," says Vincent Green, MD, family physician and medical administrator of the Family Medicine Center at Lumberton.

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs. Inflamed bronchial tubes produce mucus, which causes coughing and raspy breathing — the hallmark symptoms of bronchitis.

Unlike bronchitis, symptoms of pharyngitis include a sore throat and difficulty swallowing. Although the pharynx is designed to remove impurities from the air, some may get through and cause an infection.

Laryngitis, an inflammation of the larynx or voice box, is a common condition among singers or those who overuse their voice. Common symptoms include a hoarse, raspy or deeper than normal voice. Coughing, dry throat, difficulty swallowing and loss of voice are also common.

Treating the infection
Upper respiratory infections can be caused by bacteria or other organisms. If symptoms worsen or last longer then seven to 10 days, consult with a doctor. "When bronchitis, pharyngitis and laryngitis are caused by a virus, antibiotics are not used for treatment," says Dr. Green. Instead, he recommends using an over-the-counter cough medicine, salt-water gargle and pain reliever to help reduce the pain caused by upper respiratory infections.

For an appointment with a Virtua doctor, call 1-888-Virtua-3.

Physician Profile
Vincent Green, MD, is a board-certified family physician. He graduated from the Medical College of Pennsylvania and completed his residency in family medicine at Virtua West Jersey Family Practice Residency. Committed to providing a world-class patient experience, Dr. Green and the faculty created and implemented a patient survey for the family health center. The faculty and staff use the results to continue improving patient care.