Ask the expert


Bad cough and backache

I have a very bad cough, back ache and I am unusually tired. When I eat I get very hot and sweaty. The doctor has suggested anti-histamine and chicken soup. This hasn't been helpful. Can you help me? Also do you have a well man clinic that I could go to? I would be willing to pay for this. Please advise as I have insurance with you but have lost faith in my doctor. Thanks.

3 March 2021

You say that you have been suffering with a bad cough and backache and tiredness. These symptoms may well be linked but we cannot exclude separate issues.

The cough and tiredness could be linked to a viral or bacterial based infection, which is making you feel run down.[1] The back pain could therefore be linked to pulled muscles from the constant coughing.[2] You do not say whether you have asthma or smoke but this could exacerbate infection. It is important to remember that not all infections respond to antibiotic therapy.

Reflux (indigestion) could be also making your cough worse.[3] If you suffer from indigestion, I would suggest eating small, regular, non-acidic or spicy foods, and reducing caffeine and alcohol intake. You may also find taking an antacid prior to food helps.[4]

Antihistamines may help relieve the build up of catarrh[5] and this possibly could help ease the cough too. However a simple hot drink of lemon and honey in hot water can also help decongest and ease your cough.[6]

Your back pain, however, could also be linked with bad posture or spinal issues such as a slipped disc so we would suggest seeing your GP or a physiotherapist/osteopath for investigation.

We understand the frustrations that you are having with your GP but we would recommend that you go back to another GP within the practice that you attend, for follow up and treatment as they could then refer you for further tests such as blood tests, endoscopy and physiotherapy.

You ask about a Well Man clinic - this again should be a screening offered by your GP which should involve screening for blood pressure, diabetes and prostate issues.

Answered by the Health at Hand team.


[1] NHS 2020, Chest infection. (Accessed 3 MArch 2021)

[2] Healthline, Grotter, A 2019, Lower back pain when coughing. (Accessed 3 March 2021) 

[3] Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust 2019, Silent Reflux. (Accessed 3 March 2021)

[4] NHS 2020, Indigestion. (Accessed 3 March 2021)  

[5] NHS 2019, Decongestants. (Accessed 3 March 2021) 

[6] NHS 2021, Cough. (Accessed 3 March 2021) 

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