Coronavirus: How to manage a COVID cough? Should you take antibiotics for it? Here's what experts say – Times of India

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The rampant spread of Omicron variant has raised global concerns. In just over a month, the heavily mutated variant has breached the walls of several countries, proving to be highly infectious. Furthermore, in certain parts of the world like the UK, it has successfully established its mark, becoming the most dominant strain even in comparison to the deadly Delta variant.

Also read: Coronavirus: The Omicron symptom that is the most common in fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients

But so far, the implications of Omicron have been less severe and mostly manageable. The symptoms reported in people infected with the variant of concern have largely been mild, posing no severe risk to their health. However, that’s not to say complications won’t arise at all. As harmless as Omicron symptoms may appear, they can be quite upsetting. If not treated on time, they may even lead to other respiratory complications.

Patients coming down with an Omicron infection have so far recorded mild, cold-like symptoms including fever, cough, runny nose and body pain, says Dr. Pavan Yadav, Lead Consultant – Interventional Pulmonology and Lung Transplantation, Aster RV Hospital, J.P. Nagar, Bengaluru. According to the doctor, most cases are being managed at the OPD level and admissions to the hospital due to drop in oxygen levels are lesser compared to first and second waves.

However, Dr Yadav cautions people with multiple comorbidities, on immuno-suppressants and the elderly against the variant and urges them to take extra care.

Dr Rajender Saini, Consultant – Pulmonology, Manipal Hospital, Ghaziabad, is of the opinion that no matter how mild the symptoms of Omicron are, one must not let their guard down. “It is too early to predict the severity of the variant and assume that it will continue to be mild in the coming days,” he says.
The SARs-COV-2 virus is a respiratory illness that can range from mild to moderate symptoms. In certain cases, the severity rate may be greater, leading to hospitalisation and death.

As far as the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is concerned, so far it is said to impact the upper respiratory system, causing symptoms like itchy, sore throat and cough, says Dr. Satish KS, Senior Consultant Chest Physician, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road.

Also read: Coronavirus: How to know if you have caught Omicron or a Delta infection?

Dry cough has been commonly associated with COVID-19 and as per a Lancet study, 60–70% of symptomatic coronavirus patients experience a dry cough as an initial symptom.
A cough can certainly be uncomfortable, more so distressing. Coughing is the body’s mechanism for clearing the breathing passageways of unwanted irritants, says Dr Saini. It is the body’s natural defensive action to oust any irritants such as mucus, pollen, smoke or allergen. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways, both medical and natural, in which it can be treated.

According to Dr Saini, a dry, persistent cough can be treated just like any other flu virus. With gargles, anti-allergic medicines prescribed by doctors, one can find relief and ease off other respiratory symptoms.

Also read: Coronavirus: How to use a COVID-19 home testing kit and factors that can give you a false negative/positive

Staying hydrated and boosting one’s immunity with the help of nutritious foods and supplements are some of the natural ways to help treat a cough. However, in severe cases, doctors recommend medications like inhalers/decongestant lozenges, but only when prescribed by doctors.

COVID-19 is a viral disease and it’s important to note that antibiotics have no effect whatsoever on viral infections. Antibiotics are only effective in treating secondary bacterial infection, clarifies Dr Satish. He not only advises against using such medications for COVID and other viral diseases, but also discourages routine antibiotic use.
Antibiotic overuse is when you take antibiotics even when they’re not required. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is unnecessary or inappropriate.

Overusing and misusing antibiotics is strongly discouraged by many experts and doctors. Besides being costly, it also creates antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Due to repeated contact with antibiotics, a bacterium becomes invincible to the treatment and learns to adapt.

Additionally, antibiotics may trigger some side effects including dizziness, vomiting, yeast infections and in severe cases, allergic reactions, difficulty breathing and more.
In light of mild infections, rather than getting tested, many instantly opt for home remedies and resort to self-medication, which according to Dr Rajender Saini, can be harmful. People taking medicines without proper consultations with the doctor can not only do more harm to the lungs, but also cause severe respiratory tract infections. Besides, it can also invite unwanted secondary infections.

Underlining the gravity of the situation, the Centre has come to the fore advising against self-medication, blood investigation or radiological imaging like chest X-ray or CT scan without consultation of a treating medical officer.

Additionally, health officials have also said that steroids are not recommended in mild disease and should not be self-administered, as it may lead to further complications.
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