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What causes coughing, sneezing, headaches and watery eyes?

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Posted on Mon, 29 Jun 2015
Question: My symptoms are coughing,sneezing,headaches and watery eyes. I have had these symptoms for 5 days and now Im blowing and coughing yellow into the tissues. This has been going on for 2 days.
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Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh (1 hour later)
Brief Answer:
Probable viral infection with some secondary bacterial infection.

Detailed Answer:
Sorry you are feeling sick!

The main symptoms you are describing - coughing, sneezing, headaches and watery eyes - sounds like a viral upper respiratory infection. It could also be an allergy if the predominant symptoms are the sneezing type symptoms.

It is not uncommon that after several days of having these symptoms for some bacteria to start to join in and cause the yellow sputum.

If your sputum is yellow mostly in the first hour after you get up and then clears later, this is from the mucus sitting for awhile and is pretty normal.

If the yellow sputum is thick, dark (rather than bright) yellow and occurs all the time, then it is more likely that there is a bacterial infection. Bacteria find the mucous environment and congestion set up by viral infections to make a good place to live and multiply.

That said, it is not uncommon after several days of a cold to have some bacterial symptoms and you may still be able to get over this without an antibiotic, which would be preferable if possible, for a number of reasons.

If you think that your symptoms are more allergic (itchy nose and eyes), try over the counter cetirizine (Zyrtec) - an antihistamine. But I did not hear those symptoms mentioned so I will assume a viral upper respiratory infection.

Consider getting a nettipot and saline/salt formula packets from the pharmacy to irrigate your sinuses. Most drug stores in the US carry these. Irrigating your sinuses will help reduce some of the symptoms.

If you are having a lot of sinus congestion, and I am guessing that you do since you are having headaches, use an over the counter steroid nasal spray such as Flonase. It may take a few days for it to work maximally. Do not use within an hour of the nettipot irrigation as the Flonase will drip down the back of your throat, which you don't want.

If your infection is not getting markedly worse, such as a fever, shortness of breath, increased coughing, then I would give it another 2 - 5 days to see if it starts to lessen.

If however, you are a smoker, have a history of pulmonary problems (COPD, emphysema, asthma), immune deficiency problems, or you are feeling progressively worse, I would suggest that you go in to be seen at your doctor's office or urgent care as you may need a chest X-ray and antibiotic. Or if your symptoms are getting worse in general (fever, shortness of breath, etc).

Most viruses like this last 7 - 14 days. There is new research evidence that bronchitis (infections of the bronchi) can cause coughing that persists for 3 weeks, regardless of antibiotics - and that doctors should be discouraged from prescribing them for uncomplicated bronchitis.

I hope you are feeling better soon. Please let me know if I can provide further information.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Answered by
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Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :1991

Answered : 3138 Questions

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What causes coughing, sneezing, headaches and watery eyes?

Brief Answer: Probable viral infection with some secondary bacterial infection. Detailed Answer: Sorry you are feeling sick! The main symptoms you are describing - coughing, sneezing, headaches and watery eyes - sounds like a viral upper respiratory infection. It could also be an allergy if the predominant symptoms are the sneezing type symptoms. It is not uncommon that after several days of having these symptoms for some bacteria to start to join in and cause the yellow sputum. If your sputum is yellow mostly in the first hour after you get up and then clears later, this is from the mucus sitting for awhile and is pretty normal. If the yellow sputum is thick, dark (rather than bright) yellow and occurs all the time, then it is more likely that there is a bacterial infection. Bacteria find the mucous environment and congestion set up by viral infections to make a good place to live and multiply. That said, it is not uncommon after several days of a cold to have some bacterial symptoms and you may still be able to get over this without an antibiotic, which would be preferable if possible, for a number of reasons. If you think that your symptoms are more allergic (itchy nose and eyes), try over the counter cetirizine (Zyrtec) - an antihistamine. But I did not hear those symptoms mentioned so I will assume a viral upper respiratory infection. Consider getting a nettipot and saline/salt formula packets from the pharmacy to irrigate your sinuses. Most drug stores in the US carry these. Irrigating your sinuses will help reduce some of the symptoms. If you are having a lot of sinus congestion, and I am guessing that you do since you are having headaches, use an over the counter steroid nasal spray such as Flonase. It may take a few days for it to work maximally. Do not use within an hour of the nettipot irrigation as the Flonase will drip down the back of your throat, which you don't want. If your infection is not getting markedly worse, such as a fever, shortness of breath, increased coughing, then I would give it another 2 - 5 days to see if it starts to lessen. If however, you are a smoker, have a history of pulmonary problems (COPD, emphysema, asthma), immune deficiency problems, or you are feeling progressively worse, I would suggest that you go in to be seen at your doctor's office or urgent care as you may need a chest X-ray and antibiotic. Or if your symptoms are getting worse in general (fever, shortness of breath, etc). Most viruses like this last 7 - 14 days. There is new research evidence that bronchitis (infections of the bronchi) can cause coughing that persists for 3 weeks, regardless of antibiotics - and that doctors should be discouraged from prescribing them for uncomplicated bronchitis. I hope you are feeling better soon. Please let me know if I can provide further information.