Pharmacists have been asked by their professional body to pick out people with persistent problems and urge them to see their doctor this winter for coughs which they claim could indicate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cancer.
At this time of year, millions of people develop chest problems, many caused by infections, which will clear up over several weeks.
However, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain said that they may be early symptoms of lung cancer.
The British Lung Foundation agreed that a persistent cough deserved a GP appointment, but said there were other, more likely explanations than cancer.
Dame Helena Shovelton, its chief executive, said: "A persistent cough can be an early sign of lung cancer but it can also be an early symptom of other lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which includes chronic bronchitis.
Respiratory specialist Dr. Anthony Little stated that the move by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society will only cause unnecessary worry and fear among millions who may just have acquired a stubborn cough. "In reality, this type of policy will prompt medical professionals to mis-diagnose thousands of cases of acute respiratory infections per day and prescribe unnecessary diagnostic tests that may actually harm patients."
A new study found the spirometry thresholds for diagnosis set by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) could also pick up substantial numbers of false positives because of their failure to take into account age and sex.
A team from the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands found the thresholds set in the guidelines can pick up high rates of false positives, particularly in elderly patients, compared with age-specific and sex-specific cut-offs.
After 14,056 routine postbronchodilator diagnostic spirometry tests in people with respiratory symptoms, the false positive rate was as high as 43% in patients aged 81, compared with just 8.9% in those aged 31-40.
‘The current guideline leads to substantial over-diagnosis of obstruction in middle-aged and elderly patients,’ the researchers concluded.
Dr Antony Crokett, a GP in Shrivenham, Wiltshire, and a respiratory hospital practitioner, urged GPs to bear in mind clinical symptoms rather than ‘arbitrary’ guideline diagnostic thresholds.
‘COPD should be primarily always a clinical diagnosis confirmed by spirometry. If you look at it the other way round you’re likely to get false positives and false negatives.
A Simple Trick To Beat Upper Respiratory Infections
One simple treatment you can try that is surprisingly effective against upper respiratory infections is hydrogen peroxide.
Many patients at mercola's Natural Health Center have had remarkable results in curing colds and flu within 12 to 14 hours when administering a few drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into each ear. You will hear some bubbling, which is completely normal, and possibly feel a slight stinging sensation.
Wait until the bubbling and stinging subside (usually 5 to 10 minutes), then drain onto a tissue and repeat with the other ear. A bottle of hydrogen peroxide in 3 percent solution is available at any drug store for a couple of dollars or less. It is simply amazing how many people respond to this simple, inexpensive treatment.