The nagging cough after COVID…just how long does it last?
A dry cough is one of the most common COVID symptoms that patients complain of upon infection. The COVID virus is here to stay, and, unfortunately, so are many of its lasting side effects, including a chronic cough.
This post will share what you need to know about that annoying COVID cough and how long the cough may last after infection — plus you’ll get useful tips to help soothe your throat.
The COVID Cough and Other Symptoms
Since COVID has made its way around the world, many have experienced discomfort and even pain from the virus symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms still appear between two to 14 days after exposure.
- Muscle aches
- Fever or chills
- Nausea or vomiting
The cough may be nagging and dry.
Your cough could very well be from the common cold or flu, too. A cough alone is a common symptom in many patients with upper respiratory illnesses. It’s more likely to be COVID if you have lost your sense of taste or smell but don’t have a runny or stuffy nose, according to a recent report by the Pharmacy Times.
How Long Will I Cough After COVID?
If you’ve had a positive COVID test, one of the symptoms that may be the most frustrating is the cough that doesn’t seem to go away. Coughing is the body’s way of clearing out dead cells from the lungs and bronchial tubes.
Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos recently was reported as saying that the lingering cough can last as long as six months after the initial infection. This is particularly common for the Omicron strain as it’s more “airway dependent” than the original one, according to Galiatsatos’ interview with the American Lung Association.
Research suggests that one in five Americans will likely experience long-haul COVID symptoms. That includes cardiovascular conditions, respiratory conditions, and beyond, according to the CDC website.
Luckily, for those who have had long COVID symptoms, those with a mild case of COVID generally find their symptoms improve within a year, according to a January 2023 study published in BMJ.
If the cough lingers even longer than six months, consider speaking with your primary doc about long-haul COVID. There is no test to diagnose long COVID symptoms, so tracking the length of your illness and symptoms can be helpful for your doctor to create a personal management plan for you.
Tips to Help Your Cough
If you’re still struggling with a cough after COVID, you can continue to treat it. Just keep in mind that every person is different when it comes to recovery time based on their current health issues.
Here are some tips to help during and post-COVID coughs:
- Stay hydrated - Drinking lots of fluids like warm tea and water can help loosen secretions and soothe your throat. Hydration is key to allowing your body to heal, too.
- Skip smoking - While it’s plenty bad for your lungs already, smoking or vaping can cause further irritation to your throat and make your cough worse.
- Avoid allergens - Pet dander and dust can make a cough worse. Consider using a HEPA filter air purifier to help keep the air around you cleaner.
- Try cough drops - If you have to talk for long amounts of time or just have a generally irritated throat, try a cough drop. Brands like Fisherman’s Friend are gluten-free and sugar-free and offer relief quickly.
- Elevate your head - When sleeping, consider elevating your head with extra pillows to help with a dry cough or a post-nasal drip irritation.
- Run a humidifier - Running a humidifier or taking a hot shower can help open your airways and soothe a sore throat.
- Be mindful - If your cough gets worse or you develop a shortness of breath, contact a nurse line or get to a medical center ASAP.
A cough can be good in that it clears out secretions that need to come up. But if it’s keeping you up at night, consider a cough suppressant like Mucinex DM to help with sleep. Quality sleep is another key to allowing your body to restore itself and heal.
And, above all, if you have an inkling that something more is going on, definitely reach out to your primary care doc. It’s best to keep them in the loop when it comes to your health.
Have you dealt with a long-standing cough after COVID? What helped soothe your throat or helped with the cough? Share your thoughts in the comments below.