Long COVID: Cough

Cough

Coughing is your body’s natural way of clearing your lungs of tiny particles, irritants, fluids, and too much mucus. In that way, a cough helps to protect your lungs.

A cough can last for weeks to months after COVID-19 infection. Your cough may be dry or moist. In either case, it can be very bothersome and distressing and have an impact on your day-to-day function.

What are the Causes of Cough in Long COVID?

It is not entirely understood why a cough may continue after initial COVID-19 infection but it has been suggested that the COVID-19 virus increases the signals to your brain that cause you to cough. This is known as cough hypersensitivity. With cough hypersensitivity , your cough may be easily triggered. For example, talking, stress, or cold air may cause you to cough.

A chronic or lingering cough can occur when there is scarring of the lungs (known as pulmonary fibrosis) caused by COVID-19 infection.  It is more common in those with severe initial infection requiring long hospital stays in the intensive care unit (ICU) and complex medical treatments (e.g. use of mechanical ventilation  - i.e. “vent”).

There may be another cause of your cough unrelated to COVID-19 such as asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux), or nose/throat conditions. 

When Should I See My Doctor for My Cough?

You should see your doctor if: 

  • Your cough is not improving

  • You have shortness of breath

  • You have increased mucus

  • You have a fever

  • You are coughing up blood

Your doctor may recommend diagnostic tests, as well as inhaled or oral (pills or liquids) prescription medication.

Is There Anything I Can Do for My Cough?

Currently, there is no cure for long COVID cough. Treatment of long COVID cough is based on guidelines for chronic cough. However, there are some things that you can do to help relieve your cough. 

To interrupt the urge to cough, try these measures:

  • Suck on a cough drop

  • Take small sips of water 

  • Try closing your mouth and swallowing repeatedly, if you don’t have a drink nearby

To prevent coughing, try the following:

  • Breath through your nose if possible. It helps prevent dryness in your throat

  • Keep your throat and voice box (larynx) moist. Sip water or other drinks throughout the day

  • Stop smoking, if you smoke. Talk with your Goodpath coach if you need help

  • Stay away from irritants like tobacco smoke, dust, pollutants, strong odors, etc.

Talk with your Goodpath coach if you have questions about your cough and treatments for it.