Finding solutions to resolve chronic and nagging coughs

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A nagging cough from a cold or another virus can be annoying. It's can be even worse when that cough lasts months, or longer.

In this week's Moves in Medicine, we go to the Temple Lung Center, a clinic dedicated to solving the mystery of chronic coughs.

The ordeal began four years ago for Anne Pombrekas of Glenmoore, Pa.

"It started with a morning cough that progressively got worse, and it ended up being all day and at night," recalls Pombrekas.

As it got harder to breathe, and harder to cough, she was frustrated doctors couldn't find the cause.

"They were telling me it was asthma. It was pneumonia," she recounts.

Despite a string of antibiotics, steroids, and inhalers, Pombrekas was still coughing, and after two years, doctors still didn't know why.

"I was becoming an invalid and I didn't know why," she says.

Spurred on by a TV ad, she called the Temple Lung Center.

Dr. Sean Duffy says any cough lasting longer than eight weeks is considered chronic.

It can be left over from a bad cold, or a sign of a serious condition.

But 90 percent are caused by either asthma, acid reflux, or what's commonly caused post-nasal drip.

And it's necessarily a singular problem.

"There can be more than one of those causes affecting your cough," Dr. Duffy notes.

Dr. Duffy, a lung specialist, says many patients not only see him, but digestive and ear, nose and throat specialists, too.

Treatment may require several medications.

"You may need inhalers for asthma, you may need something specifically to treat the acid reflux as well," he notes.

Anne says she was stunned by Dr. Duffy's diagnosis.

"He said you have a yeast infection, and I said WHAT!" she recalls.

Getting the wrong medications for so long probably enabled a basic viral cough to evolve into a yeast infection.

Once the diagnosis was done, one drug was enough for her.

"He prescribed an antifungal drug, and within three days I stopped coughing. And within a week I really stopped coughing,

Anne says Dr. Duffy was the first doctor to look at the whole picture of her problem, and she's grateful.

Without that, she'd still be coughing.
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