Doctor reveals how to tell if your cough might be COVID-19

  • A cough is a common coronavirus symptom, but a cough just by itself could be a sign of a completely unrelated ailment.
  • A cough associated with a coronavirus infection is typically dry, which is to say that it’s not accompanied by phlegm.
  • Healthcare workers in the U.S. started receiving Pfizer’s new coronavirus vaccine this week. Dr. Fauci believes healthy Americans may start receiving it as soon as late March.

One of the trickier aspects of the coronavirus is that many of its more common symptoms — cough, fatigue, and fever — mirror what you’d otherwise experience with the flu. But whereas the flu might leave you incapacitated for a week before making a full recovery, the coronavirus can sometimes cause severe symptoms that persist for months on end.

While everyone these days is understandably on high-alert for any type of symptom that could be a sign of a coronavirus infection, it’s important not to get carried away and turn into a full-blown hypochondriac. A cough by itself, for example, is a symptom seen across any number of ailments, which is to say it’s not necessarily a sign of a COVID-19 infection. In fact, there’s actually a way to help you determine whether or not a newfound cough is a sign of COVID or perhaps unrelated.

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Speaking to BestLife, Dr. Nate Favini says one sign to look out for is phlegm. If you’re hocking up phlegm while you cough, there’s a possibility it’s not a covid-related symptom. According to a few studies, upwards of 60% of coronavirus patients exhibit a dry cough, which “generally means coughing without bringing up phlegm.” Meanwhile, an estimated 33% of coronavirus patients have reported coughs that also bring up mucus, also known as a “wet” or “productive” cough. adds:

A dry cough may also sound different than a wet cough. “It has a very consistent sound,” says Dr. Subinoy Das—often triggered by a tickle in the back of your throat, with a barking or hoarse sound. That’s because “the airway is not constantly changing with the cough,” says Dr. Das. (With a wet cough, mucus builds up, then leaves, constantly changing the airways.) He explains that, while dry coughs don’t necessarily hurt, they are “unsatisfying coughs, because no mucus or phlegm is expelled past the vocal cords.”

There’s also a chance that allergies could be the underlying reason behind your cough. In turn, you’ll want to pay attention to see if your cough is associated with any type of itchiness. If so, you could be in the clear as itchiness is not associated with a viral illness like the coronavirus.

BestLife also referenced Dr. Sara Narayan who says that a cough accompanied by wheezing probably isn’t a sign of a coronavirus infection either:

Narayan notes that while allergies and COVID have plenty in common, there are a couple of things that differentiate the two, including wheezing. “In patients with asthma, allergies can cause a cough, wheeze, and shortness of breath,” she writes, only two of which are associated with the novel coronavirus. “COVID-19 typically does not cause wheezing.”

Alongside that, it should go without saying that if your cough is accompanied by any other coronavirus symptoms, you should get tested immediately via a nasal swab. Incidentally, you don’t even need to leave the house for a coronavirus test anymore because you can order one via Walmart or Sam’s Club.

Common coronavirus symptoms to be aware of include shortness of breath, fever, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, a sudden loss of taste and smell, and fatigue.

Lastly, researchers at the University of Barcelona recently observed that nasal issues — such as nasal dryness — can sometimes precede the loss of taste and smell and, therefore, can sometimes be an early sign of a coronavirus infection.

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