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*Cough* *cough* ‘This…’ *cough* ‘is…’ *cough* *cough* ‘perfectly…’ *cough* ‘good…’ *cough* *cough* ‘…for you’



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Cough cough cough. Cough cough cough cough. Cough cough cough cough cough.

This is what I see when I look down my day duty list of ‘urgents’, where the receptionist puts a one-word summary of what the ‘urgent’ problem is. ‘Cough’. I keep scanning. Cough cough cough. Cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough.

There seems to be a pattern developing here. And the theme continues when I actually see these patients. Because that’s what they do. They cough. Spectacularly, histrionically and phlegmilly. All over me.

And after I’ve played dumb, as if I have absolutely no idea why they’ve attended, and waited for silence, and wiped the viral spittle from my face, and asked, innocently, ‘So what can I do for you today?’, it’s time for them to choose their favourite antibiotic-provoking cough adjective. Thus, hacking, terrible, awful, violent, horrendous, chesty, nasty and so on ad nauseam.

Why not get a useful public health message out there – if you’re obviously not gasping your last, then COUGH IS GOOD

If that doesn’t jolt me out of my torpor, they’ll try appending some time-based justification such as, ‘I’ve had it for weeks now’, ‘It’s gone on for too long’, ‘I’ve tried to put up with it’ etc.

The truth is I’ve had enough. I mean, really, is there any symptom more over-valued and pointless than cough? Apart, maybe, from fever. Or sore throat. Or headache. Whatever. The point is, I’ve seen 28,980 patients with cough in my career (and yes, I did just work that out) and that’s enough for anyone.

So, for any patients out there reading this, I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR COUGH. I JUST DON’T WANT TO KNOW. YOUR COUGH BORES ME, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? AND IF YOU EVER, EVER AGAIN BRING ME SOMETHING YOU HAVE COUGHED UP WRAPPED IN A TISSUE, I WILL RIP YOUR STUPID COUGHING HEAD OFF, OK?

And to Public Health England, I’d say this. For once, why not get a useful message out there? Instead of suggesting that anyone who so much as clears their throat might have cancer, why not publically proclaim that, if you’re all throaty and snuffly, and you don’t suffer asthma or COPD, and you’re not obviously gasping your last, then COUGH IS GOOD. It’s the way your body clears the crap out of your lungs. It’s harmless. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. And it may go on for weeks. Which, at this rate, is longer than many GPs.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield