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Cough & Breathing

Up to a third of people who recover from COVID-19 may have a persistent cough that lasts 2-3 weeks after your initial infection. For most people it will go away within 3 months. Other factors that may contribute to cough include heartburn, asthma, seasonal allergies, irritants such as strong perfume or cigarette smoke, and postnasal drip.

Shortness of breath is when you feel like you can’t get enough air in your lungs, or you can’t catch your breath. Shortness of breath is common both during and after recovery from COVID-19. Stress and anxiety associated with having COVID-19 can also cause trouble breathing.

Seeing a Doctor for Cough and Shortness of Breath

You should see your doctor if you experience a persistent cough one week after recovering from COVID-19, or if it interferes with your daily activities, including work. Your doctor may want to rule out other potential causes of your cough, such as heartburn or asthma. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an inhaled medicine to manage your cough. You should also seek medical attention if you experience a cough with:

  • Blood in cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty sleeping

You should seek medical attention if you experience shortness of breath with:

  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Trouble breathing while lying down
  • Wheezing
  • Blue or pale skin, nail beds, or lips
  • Trouble speaking, dizziness, or weakness

Self-Care for Cough and Shortness of Breath

Over-the-counter cough suppressants such as those containing benzonatate, guaifenesin, and dextromethorphan are effective in reducing cough. Hot tea with honey, inhaling steam, and cough drops may also soothe your cough. If you are experiencing shortness of breath related to feelings of stress or anxiety, you may try the following self-care strategies: