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How to Distinguish COVID 19 Cough from a Regular Cough ?

One of the hallmark symptoms of COVID 19 is a cough. A cough is a common symptom of many health conditions, including the common cold, flu, seasonal allergies and respiratory syncytial virus. So, if you have recently caught a cough, it would be difficult to tell whether it is caused due to COVID 19 or a different health condition. If this question has crossed your mind how can one differentiate common cough from COVID 19 cough, then keep reading this article till the end because we will look at some ways using which you may be able to tell the difference.

According to a study published in the year 2021, an attempt was made to detect COVID 19 by the sound a person makes while coughing. They were able to tell the difference by the way a person clears their throat while coughing versus someone who coughs because they have an illness.  But, these findings were nullified by another study conducted in the year 2022.

On the one hand, if we go by the digits, about two-thirds of coughs related to COVID 19 do not produce mucus.  Most of the coughs are dry and are hard to stop once you start coughing.  On the other hand, many people also cough up mucus when they have COVID 19.

Is Coughing a Sign of COVID 19?

COvid 19 cough // sick woman lying in bed with glass of water in hand // Healthier Me Today
Covid 19 cough // sick woman lying in bed with glass of water in hand // Healthier Me Today

Coughing is a prominent sign of COVID 19. However, it may point towards other health conditions as well. The cough produced during COVID 19 infection is often dry, meaning it does not produce any kind of mucus.  According to the pediatrician for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado, the cough produced during the COVID 19 is caused by irritation of lung tissues from the virus. Other symptoms may include:-

  • Hacking Sound
  • Tickling in the throat
  • No feeling of relief

Additionally, doctors have noticed that in young kids, barking coughs are witnessed that resemble croup. A croup generally happens when airways become inflamed or swollen.  If you notice this symptom in your child, it is extremely important to bring  it up with your healthcare provider because croup is easily treatable.

When Should You Call A Doctor?

Before you decide to call a doctor, it is important to keep an eye that your cough is not getting worse. If you think you feel your cough deep down in the lungs, you can use a home pulse oximeter to monitor your oxygen levels.  If you notice your oxygen levels dropping below 94%, call your doctor at once. But if your baseline is lower and stable, it is advised to keep monitoring your symptoms because there could be a possibility of COVID cough / pneumonia.

A cough accompanied with a fever over 100.4 degree Fahrenheit is concerning. If you experience symptoms given below along with your cough, call your doctor immediately:-

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Chest Pain
  • Coughing up Blood or blood-tinged mucus

Moreover, if you are unsure if you need help, check in with your doctor so that you can have peace of mind that everything is alright.

Frequently Asked Questions on COVID 19 Cough

covid 19 cough // man coughing into arm // dark hairWhat is the Treatment for COVID 19 Cough?

The most common symptoms of COVID 19 are- interrupted sleep and chest discomfort which you may be able to recover with proper rest. However, you are also suggested to take several measures which are mentioned below:-

  1. Drink Plenty of Fluids.  This would ensure your throat remains moist and you are able to reduce irritation.
  2. You can also use a humidifier in your home if the air indoors is very dry. You can also practice taking hot showers with doors closed in order to generate plenty of steam.
  3. Consumption of cold or hot foods such as tea, broth, soups is recommended as all these can soothe irritated throats and reduce coughing.
  4. If your symptoms worsen, you can also consider consuming over-the-counter cough drops to relieve the pain.
  5. Consumption of a teaspoon of honey is recommended.

How long does COVID 19 cough last?

A study conducted in 2021 suggested that people who had been hospitalized for COVID 19,  reported that a cough lasted for approximately 11.2 months after hospitalization.

How Does COVID 19 Virus Spread?

The virus spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings, or breathes.  The small particles can range from small aerosols to large droplets. The virus can spread in crowded indoor settings, poorly ventilated spaces, or anywhere people tend to spend a longer period of time.  Not only this, but people can also become infected by touching their mouth, nose, eyes, or mouth.

What is the difference between people who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic?

Both the terms asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic refer to people who do not exhibit symptoms.  The only difference between both of them is that asymptomatic refers to those people who are infected but do not exhibit any kind of symptoms. On the other hand, pre-symptomatic refers to people who are infected but might show symptoms later on.

What are the Most Common Symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID 19 cough are quite similar to those of the flu, common cough, and cold. It might take 2-14 days after the exposure to the virus to exhibit the symptoms. The symptoms can range from very mild to severe illness. Even some people who are infected do not show any symptoms.

The most common symptoms are- cough, cold, fever and fatigue. Other symptoms can include- shortness of breath, chest pain , body pain, headache, loss of taste or small, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, vomiting, abdominal pain, skin rashes, diarrhea and more.

How Likely Am I to Catch COVID-19?

The COVID-19 situation is evolving globally. All the countries across the world have reported cases of COVID-19. Therefore, it is recommended to follow the precautionary measures as recommended by the WHO to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

How Long Does COVID 19 Cough Last?

According to the guidelines shared by the World Health organization, COVID 19 cough tends to last an average of 19 days after recovery. That is not all, one can experience an irritated throat for a long period of time even after recovery.

Mentioned below are several hacks that you can try at your home to boost your body recovery and make the irritation less prominent in your throat and lungs.

The road to recovery is long after COVID. You need to intake more liquids in order to keep your throat moist. You need to meet your daily nutritional requirements. This would help you boost your immunity and protect you from muscle loss. COVID often leaves you inactive, drained and bedridden. You need to balance what you eat and what you drink to gain strength.

You can use hard candies, cough drops, lozenges, hot tea and cough medicines to get relief from continuous coughing. The COVID 19 cough symptoms last longer than you may think. Therefore, keep taking precautionary measures so that you can go back to your normal life.

When you are on the road to recovery, you still need to ask yourself some questions, ” Am I still contagious?” “Do I still need to wear a mask”?

You might have recovered, but it’s still wise to self-quarantine yourself and keep wearing a mask to prevent the spread of potential infection. Some symptoms, such as the loss of smell and taste, may linger , but there is nothing to be worried about.

How Can You Prevent Coughing From Spreading?

Covid 19 cough // woman standing in street wearing a blue face maskThe ideal way to prevent the spread of germs through coughing is to always cover your mouth with a tissue or even a bent elbow while coughing or sneezing.  This reduces the spread of infectious respiratory droplets and aerosols.  It is recommended to continue wearing a mask even when you think you have recovered.

What are the Different Types of Cough?

Short-term Cough– Short-term coughs are most common and the most common cause of a short-term cough is the infection of the upper respiratory tract. This infection inflames the throat, lungs or even windpipe.  Short-term coughs generally go away on their own in 2-3 weeks. However, if it lasts more than 2-3 weeks, it could be because:-

  • Sinusitis
  • Whooping Cough
  • Laryngitis
  • COVID-19
  • Infections in the lower respiratory tract
  • Asthma

Persistent Covid 19 Cough – Approximately 5% of people are affected by lingering cough. While it is common, it can linger on longer for about four to six months. A lingering cough is the symptom that your body is affected by the virus. COVID-19 can inflame the mucus membranes of the airways, infecting the entire passage starting from the throat to the bronchial tubes.

A persistent cough can be a concerning symptom, often signaling an underlying health issue. Understanding the causes and seeking appropriate remedies is crucial for effective management.

Causes of Persistent Cough:covid 19 cough // Healthier Me Today

  1. Respiratory Infections:

Common colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia can lead to persistent coughs. These infections irritate the airways, triggering the cough reflex. Adequate rest and hydration are often essential for recovery.

  1. Allergies:

Allergic reactions to pollen, dust, or pet dander can result in a chronic cough. Identifying and avoiding allergens, along with antihistamines, may alleviate symptoms.

  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):

Stomach acid regurgitating into the esophagus can cause irritation and persistent cough. Lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, and medications may be recommended to manage GERD.

  1. Environmental Irritants:

Exposure to pollutants, smoke, or occupational irritants can contribute to a chronic cough. Minimizing exposure and using protective measures may be necessary.

  1. Asthma:

Persistent cough can be a symptom of asthma, a chronic respiratory condition characterized by airway inflammation. Inhalers and other asthma medications are commonly prescribed for symptom control.

  1. Postnasal Drip:

Excess mucus dripping down the back of the throat can lead to a persistent cough. Saline nasal sprays or decongestants may help alleviate this issue.

  1. Medications:

Certain medications, such as ACE inhibitors used for hypertension, can induce cough as a side effect. Consultation with a healthcare provider can guide appropriate adjustments.

  1. Lung Diseases:

Chronic conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or interstitial lung disease may manifest with persistent cough. Management involves targeted therapies and lifestyle modifications.

Seeking Professional Guidance:

Persistent coughs necessitate a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional. A thorough medical history, physical examination, and, if needed, diagnostic tests such as chest X-rays or pulmonary function tests aid in identifying the root cause. Once the underlying issue is determined, a tailored treatment plan can be implemented.

Treatment Approaches:

  1. Medications:

Depending on the cause, various medications may be prescribed. Antibiotics for bacterial infections, antihistamines for allergies, or bronchodilators for asthma are examples.

  1. Lifestyle Modifications:

Adopting healthy habits, such as maintaining proper hydration, avoiding smoking, and managing stress, can contribute to overall respiratory health.

  1. Inhaled Therapies:

For conditions like asthma or COPD, inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators may be recommended to manage symptoms and improve lung function.

  1. Speech Therapy:

In cases where coughing is related to vocal cord dysfunction, speech therapy techniques can help address and control the reflex.

  1. Surgery:

In some instances, surgical interventions may be considered, such as for the removal of lung nodules or addressing structural issues in the airways.

Your Health

A persistent cough is a symptom that warrants attention, and self-diagnosis can lead to delays in appropriate treatment. Seeking guidance from a healthcare professional ensures a thorough examination and accurate identification of the underlying cause. Timely intervention and adherence to prescribed treatments are essential for effectively managing and alleviating a persistent cough, promoting respiratory health and overall well-being.