The sign your dry cough is Covid-related – and what to do

Dr Nighat discusses symptoms of new Covid strain

Dry coughs have a number of causes, including allergies, asthma, chronic acid reflux, or the result of a recent cold or flu.

According to the NHS, a dry cough is also one of the most common coronavirus symptoms.

But Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, told Prevention: “It’s usually a dry cough, but a productive one can also occur.”

If you develop a dry cough, it is a good idea to test yourself for Covid, said William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

He told the website: “It could be Covid, it could be flu, it might be RSV, or it could be something else.”

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But starting with a home Covid test is often the easiest place to start, said Dr Schaffner.

If you test positive for Covid, you should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for three days after the test was taken if you or your child is under 18 years old.

If you are 18 years old or over, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days.

This is because children and young people tend to be infectious to other people for less time than adults.

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The NHS recommends the following things to help a dry cough:

  • keep yourself well hydrated by drinking small amounts often throughout the day
  • soothe your throat by drinking a warm drink, such as honey and lemon
  • take small sips of liquid if you feel yourself starting to cough
  • suck a sugary sweet if you feel yourself starting to cough
  • try swallowing repeatedly if you have a cough and do not have a drink near you
  • blow your nose if you have a runny nose – try not to sniff

If you have a cough with phlegm, you should:

  • stay hydrated
  • inhale steam
  • try lying on either side as flat as you can to help drain the phlegm
  • try moving around to help to move the phlegm
  • try breathing control techniques if you move to an area with a different temperature
  • try to breathe in through your nose – breathing in through your mouth can make you cough more

Speak to your GP if:

  • you have had a cough for more than three weeks
  • you are waking up at night coughing
  • your cough is changing, for example coughing up blood or phlegm turning dirty
  • breathlessness is not improving
  • you experience shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or chest pain
  • you are worried about your symptoms
  • you are worried about long Covid symptoms in a child or young person under 18

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