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What you need to know about chronic cough after COVID-19

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  • Recovery times for COVID-19 illness can vary greatly depending on your medical history, but virologists have established an average recovery schedule for respiratory symptoms.

  • A majority of people can expect a chronic cough caused by COVID-19 illness to clear up within 10 to 21 days, depending on the strain of virus at hand and whether hospitalization was required.

  • Coughs that extend beyond four weeks or worsen after an initial infection may indicate a long COVID condition.

  • Below you will learn: When a COVID cough usually goes away; If the cough is normal after COVID-19; to how a chronic cough can indicate a long development of COVID; and how you can treat a cough after COVID-19.

With over One out of five American adults probably experience long COVID symptoms This year, it’s natural to worry about constantly coughing after testing positive for COVID-19. Make no mistake: a chronic cough that is painful and persists for a few weeks may be part of your body’s normal response to beat a SARS-CoV-2 infection. After all, coughing after overcoming a respiratory illness is common – and in some cases, including those infected with seasonal flu, a cough can last for months after the initial infection. Jaclyn Leong, DOthe co-director of University of California Irvine Health‘s COVID-19 recovery service, says a cough could theoretically last between six and eight weeks in some cases.

It’s also possible that your cough is exacerbated by a completely unrelated health issue. to your first COVID-19 illness. Dr. Leong explains that contracting COVID-19 can open you up to a secondary bacterial infection within days or weeks. after your first positive test, which may be the real cause of a persistent cough. “You can also develop an overload of an inflammatory response in the lungs or the body,” she adds.

But if weeks turn into months and your chronic cough is not fading or diminishing in every direction, Discussions about the long COVID with your health care provider should be entertained. After all, most specialists have had more than two years to collect data on the average COVID-19 illness and likely symptoms – and have reached consensus on a timeline for when full recovery should occur.

When will a COVID cough usually go away?

Although each case may be different, there is a standard recovery period for COVID-19 that has been implemented by health care providers — symptoms caused by COVID-19, including cough, should subside within 21 days of a first positive test. “After 4 weeks from initial infection, a person should consider the possibility of developing long COVID or post-COVID conditions,” Dr. Leong said.

Researchers also established cases where coughing from SARS infection can last up to eight months, she adds, in more unique situations. The reason such a range exists is that individual factors, including conditions like asthma, pre-existing respiratory or heart conditions or lifestyle choices like smoking can influence the functioning of our body to overcome the cough.

Robert Klugman, MDAssociate Vice President and Medical Director at UMass Memorial Healthrecount Good Housekeeping the reason some may experience a persistent cough for months has to do with how a respiratory virus can affect the body.

“Coughing is an evolutionary mechanism for expelling foreign bodies and clearing the lungs and bronchi of secretions,” he explains. “Sensitive nerve endings in our bronchial system and lungs are attacked by these viruses.” Lung inflammation can further be affected by the severity of it the strain of COVID you are affected with – meaning there are several ways a cough can be exacerbated for months for some.

You are more likely than not to notice an improvement within 10 days of illness, Dr. Klugman adds – but almost everyone should give themselves a grace period of at least three to four weeks. If your initial COVID-19 illness resulted in hospitalization, you should give yourself even more recovery time, as both experts believe symptoms (including cough) persist longer in these cases.

Is it normal to cough after COVID-19?

Not all illnesses related to COVID-19 will trigger a painful, long-lasting cough. But if you experience upper respiratory tract symptoms during your initial illness – which is extremely common in people infected with recently dominant XBB variants – you should expect to have a cough while your body is actively recovering from an infection. Experts suggest that respiratory symptoms like coughing could take between three and four weeks to completely disappear.

Unlike everyone else seasonal illnesses this winter, COVID-19 affects the lungs in more than one way, which may explain why a cough persists beyond an initial flurry of symptoms and illness. “COVID is meaner than the flu and other respiratory infections, in that it not only attacks the respiratory lining, but also the small blood vessels,” Dr. Klugman said. It ignites them [over time]which adds to the overall lung damage.

There is a general recovery window of 10 to 31 days for the majority of individuals, which we have covered above; but certain pre-existing conditions or lifestyle factors prevent anyone from calculating exactly when a cough may stop after COVID-19 illness. And more research is needed to rule out other factors of how the SARS-CoV-2 virus interacts with our immune system over the long term.

Studies hypothesize that [a lingering] Cough may be a different mechanism of COVID-19 infection; COVID-19 is thought to cause brain inflammation, modulation of the immune system, or nerve inflammation of the vagus nerve pathway, a nerve that controls coughing,” says Dr. Leong. “These nerves in the brain and body become hypersensitive and trigger easily, which can then cause prolonged coughing. The potential treatment or relief of this particular symptom would therefore target this mechanism in the future.

Although you should seek further medical advice if your cough does not subside within a month of your first signs of illness, you can see a specialist sooner if you notice it getting worse during this time. Or, if you have identified other co-occurring symptoms that match a long COVID diagnosis.

When does a chronic cough become a long COVID symptom?

We have established that a continuous cough should be further investigated by a doctor if it persists beyond four weeks – but other long COVID symptoms beyond a cough may show up earlier than this timelineand direct you to a larger problem.

A persistent cough should be considered a sign of a bigger problem at hand when also combined with other symptoms of long COVID, including tiredness, brain fogmemory problems, shortness of breath or rapid heartbeatadds Dr. Leong, which may prompt your doctor to seek further treatment or specialist help.

She clarifies that experts have seen long COVIDs develop without more of these symptoms occurring; This means you may have developed a post-COVID condition that simply includes a persistent cough on its own. The combination of these symptoms, however, indicates a higher likelihood that you have developed long COVID.

In addition to being aware of a four-week window, a worsening cough that is consistent after you have recovered from other COVID-19 symptoms likely indicates that you have a secondary illness that needs to be treated. Dr. Leong advises that other conditions can make coughing worse after testing positive for COVID-19, including Untreated bronchitis, pneumonia, whooping cough or exacerbation of asthma. Your healthcare provider can rule out other medical issues that could be contributing to a devastating cough and prescribe treatments that are more effective than anything you would have access to at home.

How to get rid of a COVID-19 cough?

Your healthcare professional will dictate how you can soothe a painful cough as the symptom persists – over-the-counter cough medicine may not be suitable for some people with pre-existing heart conditions. In any case, you will turn to proven natural remedies which can relieve much of the pain or discomfort around a cough. thinking tools like hot teausing an efficient humidifier and stay away away from aggressive pollutants or cigarette smoke during your recovery.

If your doctor determines that you have a secondary bacterial infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics to restore you to full health – or, if the sinuses are impaired in any way, Decongestants can be used.

But if you have a persistent cough within 10 days of your first COVID-19 illness, doctors are likely to won’t prescribe anything more. Your respiratory system will take time to recover from COVID-19, and symptoms are expected to slowly fade over time rather than disappear overnight. Do your best to make yourself comfortable and keep in mind that your lungs are on the mend.

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