Personal Views

When the coughing had to stop

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 26 August 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:575
  1. Judith Harvey, general practitioner in Aylesbury

    Early October was dreadful for respirtory infections. When one child's cough exploded in my face as I was examining him I knew that the bug had my number on it. By the end of the week I had developed a vague sniffle, a vague sore throat, a malaise. I sent apologies to a committee meeting, opened a bottle of red wine, and hoped that a weekend of country air would encourage my immune system to see off the lurking pathogen. On Monday I awoke with a cough and I knew that I had lost. It was not an ordinary cough, either. It came in uncontrollable paroxysms from deep in my chest. It shook my body, strained my ribcage and pelvic floor, made sleep impossible. My trachea felt as though it was being scoured by a wire bottle brush.

    After a week I telephoned the microbiologist to find out what bugs were around. He listened to the cough and asked whether I had been immunised against pertussis. I did not know, but had had it as a child, along with my younger sister. I …

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