NEW DELHI: "I feel that my lungs are coming out; this persistent cough is giving me painful stomach cramps and I can't sleep at night.
It's irritating" - doctor are hearing such complaints from most patients who have got the flu that's sweeping Delhi this season.
According to doctors, the current virus, prevalent across the country, is influenza A (H3N2). "Its symptoms are slightly different and more severe than what were seen earlier. Lots of patients are complaining about persistent cough or bouts of cough for many days, sometimes even for weeks, after the flu settles," said Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, group medical director of Max Healthcare and senior director at Institute of Internal Medicine. Even in the post-viral phase, lots of people are experiencing prolonged fatigue, weakness, tiredness, mental fogging, inability to work and concentrate.
"Normally, we don't see flu cases in north India in February, March. But this year, we are seeing a lot of cases. Seasonality has extended in most of the countries," he said. The virus usually triggers a certain type of reaction or inflammation in the upper airways or sometimes even in the lungs, which may be allergic or inflammatory in nature. While fever, cough and cold, body ache settle down in three-five days, dry cough is continuing this time, said doctors.
Dr GC Khilnani, chairman of PSRI Institute of Pulmonary, Critical care and Sleep Medicine, said respiratory viruses, including the influenza virus, cause airways inflammation, but presentation and long-term effects could vary. "It depends upon some factors, including genetic predisposition of a person in the form of allergic tendencies, pre-existing asthma, COPD and other pre-existing lung diseases. Air pollution adds to severity and longevity of inflammation, which leads to prolonged cough, sore throat, difficulty in breathing, chest tightness and wheezing. This time, a particular symptom of loss of voice for a few days and difficulty in swallowing have been observed," he said, clarifying that multiple courses of antibiotics don't help.
Dr Budhiraja said many people who weren't asthmatic had started behaving like one. These patients have to be treated with a combination of anti-allergic and asthma-like medications and are sometimes even prescribed steroids to reduce the swelling in the airways, he added.
Echoing similar views, Dr Pradeep Kawatra, consultant of internal medicine, Fortis Escorts at Okhla, said, "This virus is affecting the throat along with the bronchial tree. The cough is persistent due to an allergy and pollution can be a factor. The best remedy is anti-allergic and mild broncho dilators or some inhalers. We are seeing many patients in OPD and they are recommended blood tests and X-ray."
Dr Manisha Arora, senior consultant of internal medicine at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, said, "Pollution can trigger persistent coughing. Particulate matter, irritating gases, and mixed pollutants are all linked to an increase in coughing and wheezing. If the cough is due to a viral infection, rest and hydration can help. However, if it persists for more than a week or is accompanied by other symptoms like chest pain or difficulty in breathing, it's essential to see a doctor."

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