Many patients are noticing persistent symptoms after being considered “recovered” from COVID 19 illness. They may have been released from self-isolation and are no longer considered acutely ill, but continue to struggle with bothersome symptoms. Cough is the second most common persistent symptom after COVID-19 infection following fatigue.
When someone experiences a cough for more than 3 weeks out from illness there are a few things to think about. Are you having persistent postnasal drip? Is the cough productive and coming from your chest or is it more of a throat clearing cough? If related to persistent postnasal drip, there are several over the counter nasal sprays that contain inhaled steroids that may be effective in decreasing the inflammatory response. Are there any other associated persistent symptoms? If you are experiencing cough, especially with shortness of breath, we do encourage you to see a medical professional to be evaluated. There are many complications that can arise from COVID-19 including blood clots, secondary pneumonias, and fibrosis. Chest imaging and other tests can help medical professionals identify problems that would require specific treatment.
Many viral illnesses can lead to what is called a post-viral cough syndrome. Post-viral cough is the term used when a cough continues more than 3 weeks past viral illness. A persistent cough can be part of an inflammatory response, increased sensitivity, and/or possible conditions such as underlying reactive airways. As many as 25 out of every 100 people can experience a persistent cough following viral illness. If cough persists past 8 weeks it is considered more chronic and other underlying conditions many need to be evaluated such as gastroesophageal reflux, chronic sinus disease, or asthma.
People may be concerned about or fear their own and others cough symptoms because cough is a very common presenting symptom (occurring in more than 50%) of COVID patients. The stigma associated with coughing has been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are already feeling isolated, and persistent symptoms may lead them to isolate even more. This isolation can often affect overall well-being. Seeking help from a medical professional can help you better understand either the origins of the cough or provide options to help manage the symptom. Both can lead to an improved quality of life.
In regard, to COVID-19, we need to better understand the cough pathway to optimize treatment options. Research is ever evolving and your health care professional may have new suggestions or treatment options for you and others struggling with post COVID symptoms.
Connect with others going through post-COVID recovery in the COVID-19 discussion group.