How Long Does COVID Cough Last?

COVID has undoubtedly had an impact on the world. Chances are you have had or know of someone that has had COVID, but luckily, public health is much better than it once was. A few years after the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and fast diagnostics have greatly improved outlooks for COVID patients. 

While there have been many advancements in terms of COVID mitigation, treatment, and knowledge, there are a number of things that we are still learning, including the lasting impacts of COVID. 

Many people who contract the coronavirus disease experience COVID symptoms like cough, loss of taste, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, fever, and flu-like symptoms. These symptoms tend to resolve within a few weeks, but some people experience long-haul symptoms of COVID-19 that last well beyond what is typical.

Coughing is one of the most common symptoms that tend to linger in individuals that get COVID. Below is everything you need to know about COVID-19 cough, including its causes, how long it lasts, and ways to achieve some relief. 

What Causes a Lingering Cough After COVID?

Coughing is a natural physiological reaction to irritations of the airway. Coughing is a physical means for your body to expel particles, mucus, and other irritants out of the airway to clear it for effective breathing. 

Coughing is, for the most part, a productive reflex that protects your airway — but certain conditions can cause coughing to become excessive and even maladaptive. 

Coughing from COVID tends to be caused by irritation of the lower and upper airway from inflammation, as well as of mucus that drips into the upper airway, also known as post-nasal drip. After the initial COVID infection is resolved, coughing tends to resolve a few days later.

However, some people experience dry coughs well after having COVID. 

The exact cause of a lasting COVID cough is still unknown, but recent research has suggested that residual COVID spike RNA in the upper airway membranes may be to blame for lasting chronic cough following a COVID infection. 

How Long Does COVID Cough Usually Last?

The average duration of COVID cough is not entirely clear, as long as COVID is an area of continual research. Preliminary findings have shown that the length of time that COVID cough lasts varies significantly from person to person and can depend on factors like preexisting conditions, potential complications from COVID, and more. 

A cough associated with COVID tends to resolve as symptoms begin to improve which can be anywhere from a couple of days to a week or two. Long COVID cough can last for weeks to months following the initial COVID infection.

Does a Lingering Cough Indicate Long COVID?

A lingering cough after COVID-19 may indicate the presence of long COVID. Long COVID is defined as COVID symptoms that last longer than 12 weeks following a SARS-CoV-2 infection. 

If you find that your cough is not resolving and is impacting your quality of life, you should arrange an appointment with your primary care to discuss what options you have to help.

Is a Lingering COVID Cough Contagious?

One of the most common questions people have regarding COVID cough is whether or not it is contagious. The answer depends on how long it has been since your initial onset of symptoms, your vaccination status, and whether or not your other symptoms have been resolved. 

When it comes to COVID, reducing the spread is imperative to help protect vulnerable populations. The last thing you want to do is pass the sickness to someone who may not be able to effectively fight off the infection. 

Experts recommend a minimum five-day isolation period following the onset of initial symptoms, but the exact amount of time you need to isolate is dependent on whether or not your symptoms are improving or not. 

A sure way of telling whether you are contagious or not is to utilize an antigen test, which requires the presence of an active virus to test positive. If you test negative two times with two tests 48 hours apart, you can be fairly confident that you have recovered and are no longer contagious. 

How Can You Ease a COVID Cough?

Treatments for COVID and its symptoms do exist but are typically reserved for individuals that have moderate to severe cases of COVID. These patients may receive antiviral medications, oxygen therapy, and other treatments to help fight the viral infection. 

Everyone else with mild symptoms is advised to simply treat symptoms as needed with over-the-counter medications and other methods to ease discomfort. 

Below is a closer look at some methods you may be able to utilize to help ease your COVID cough. These methods won’t cure COVID cough, but they may help to lessen the severity of the cough and help you to have a better quality of life. 

Take Hot Showers

Having a cough can be incredibly annoying, and if you are looking for a great at-home remedy, taking a hot shower may be just what you need to attain some temporary relief. The warm, moist air produced by the shower can help to loosen up any phlegm and mucous in your airways and make coughing more productive. 

Try a Humidifier

Another common cause of a cough is an airway that is dried and irritated. These conditions can become exacerbated when you are sick, if you live in a dry climate, or if you heat your home, which can dry out the air around you. Having a dry environment can make it more likely that your airway becomes irritated and dry. 

A humidifier is a device that aerosolizes water to help increase the relative humidity within your house. With a humidifier, you should aim for an indoor humidity between 40 to 60 percent. Maintaining humidity within this range can help to lessen dryness due to the environment and can help alleviate potential irritants like fungi, mites, dust, and other particles. 

Elevate Your Head at Night

Sleeping with your head elevated can help with a cough by improving the flow of mucus and reducing the risk of post-nasal drip, which can cause chronic coughing. When you lie flat, mucus can also pool in the back of your throat and cause irritation, which can then lead to coughing. 

Elevating your head while sleeping can help reduce this by allowing gravity to help drain the mucus down the throat and into the stomach.

In addition, sleeping with your head elevated can also help relieve symptoms of acid reflux, which can worsen a cough by causing irritation in the throat and chest. Acid reflux is caused by corrosive stomach secretions that leak out of the stomach and enter the esophagus. By keeping your head elevated, you can reduce the likelihood of acid reflux and associated coughing. 

Drink Warm Tea

Drinking tea can provide several benefits for individuals with a chronic cough caused by COVID-19, as it can help with dehydration, help expel mucous, and may provide some temporary relief.

Hydration is crucial for reducing the severity of a chronic cough, and drinking warm tea can help replace the fluids lost from coughing. Warm tea can also have a soothing effect on the throat and airways, reducing irritation. Teas that utilize ingredients like honey, mint, ginger, and licorice root may also help to soothe the throat and provide some added relief. 

Consult Your Doctor

If your COVID cough is severe or persistent, it is important to consult your healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment. A persistent cough can be an unfortunate long-term symptom of COVID, but it could also signify that something more serious is going on. 

Coughing up blood, experiencing chest pain, or having a history of lung disease are all things that warrant a visit to the doctor. 

In rare cases, COVID can cause damage to the heart or lungs, which may induce a lasting cough. If you have one of these conditions, heart rehab or pulmonary rehab with Carda Health may be able to help. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program designed to help individuals recover from lung conditions and improve their lung health. It typically involves a combination of exercise, education, and support to help people recover from adverse lung events and conditions.

Pulmonary rehab could be helpful for people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have developed a cough as a result of the virus's impact on their heart and lung health. 

The Bottom Line

COVID-19 has been around for a number of years now, and with new variants like omicron making appearances, it doesn’t seem like it is going away. While COVID will likely not be completely eradicated, treatments and knowledge of COVID continue to improve day by day. 

Long COVID continues to be a topic of further investigation, and there continue to be breakthroughs for new and innovative ways to potentially treat these long-haul symptoms. Perhaps one day, long-haul symptoms like COVID cough will have definitive treatments to allow people to get back to their daily routines faster. 


A clinical case definition of post-COVID-19 condition by a Delphi consensus | NCBI

A Potential Novel Treatment for Chronic Cough in Long COVID Patients: Clearance of Epipharyngeal Residual SARS-CoV-2 Spike RNA by Epipharyngeal Abrasive Therapy | NCBI 

Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Indirect health effects of relative humidity in indoor environments | NCBI 

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