Is that Cough COVID-19? How to Know and What to Do?

Posted on October 29, 2021

Category: News Causes and Prevention

It was late composer and alto saxophonist Leon Konitz who once said, “I wish that person outside would stop coughing.” He was responding to a concert attendee whose cough was so loud that you could hear it outside the concert venue - over his performance. While you might find coughing annoying, others shrug it off like white noise. Or maybe you react with paranoia – or even terror. These days, in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s usually the latter – but for an entirely different reason.

There are many reasons why someone coughs – both good and bad: It’s an important reflex that helps protect our airways and lungs against irritants like germs, mucus, and dust. The American Lung Association states that occasional coughing is normal. However, coughing can alert us to signs of infection. This can include upper or lower respiratory infections, hay fever, heart failure, to a collapsed lung. Today, it also alerts us to COVID-19.

Coughing is a key COVID-19 symptom. But how can you tell a COVID cough from the rest? As familiar as the sound of a cough may be, not all carry the same tune or even feel the same. Here’s the positive: you can identify a COVID cough.

Is Coughing a Sign of COVID-19?

Coughing alone doesn’t signify COVID-19 – it’s what comes with the cough that counts. It’s just the first of three important signifiers:

  • Coughing
  • High Fever
  • Shortness of Breath

Add to this other less-perceptible symptoms: loss of appetite, loss of taste, loss of smell, and fatigue.

The reason we jump on coughing is that it’s an obvious signal that something may be amiss and the source of rapid spread and airborne germs. It may take a few days for other COVID symptoms to make themselves known. That’s why you should still get a test no matter what cough you have.

What Does a COVID Cough Sound Like?

Believe it or not, COVID coughs do have qualities that set them apart from an average cough:

  • Dry Cough – It sounds like someone’s hacking up a lung. It carries a consistent, rough tone because it doesn’t contain mucus.
  • Persistent Cough – It’s a painful loop. The dry cough irritates the already-dry throat. It keeps coming and coming with very little relief.
  • Additional Symptoms – Typically, within the first week of infection, alongside the cough, other COVID symptoms tend to follow; chest pains, fatigue, headaches, and shortness of breath.

If you identify your cough as having all or most of these, don’t consider that a diagnosis. Consult your doctor. These same rules go for your kids.

Does My Child Have a COVID-19 Cough?

Despite fewer cases of COVID-19 in kids, children can still experience mild to severe symptoms if they contract it. Still, call your doctor.

How Can You Tell if it’s a COVID-19 Cough, the Flu, a Cold, or Allergies?

Each virus can cause mild to extreme symptoms. But several indications distinguish COVID from other illnesses in significant ways:

Cold Symptoms:

  • Tickle in the Throat
  • Runny or Stuffy Nose
  • Sneezing
  • Low Fever

Flu Symptoms:

  • Sudden Fever
  • Chills
  • Body Aches
  • Sore Throat
  • Not Much of an Appetite

COVID-19 Symptoms:

  • Dry, Intense Cough
  • Loss of Taste and/or Smell
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle Pain

If you or your child are feeling these symptoms, you can make an appointment with Sioux Falls Urgent Care – we provide telehealth visits for those who don’t feel comfortable coming in. Before you do, read up on what first steps you should take in determining your illness.

These symptoms are nothing to sneeze at – in fact, if you are sneezing, chances are allergy season might be getting the best of you.

Where COVID symptoms take anywhere between 2 to 24 days to show up, allergies are almost instant:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy Nose, Eyes or Mouth
  • Runny Nose
  • Puffy Eyes

These ailments are typically harmless to your body, but they could annoy your neighbor. There’s no treatment for that, unfortunately. But we do have something that can help: Check out our blog that helps you identify key differences between having allergies and COVID-19.

While a runny nose and sniffles may last another week or two after a cold, there have been instances of those who have recovered from COVID still being unable to taste or smell. Reports from survey data explain that most people who’ve recovered from COVID get their taste and smell senses back after a month. Although, there have been cases where some don’t get their senses back for a few months – and they can even experience a change in their senses. For instance, smells might seem stronger or more unpleasant.

How Long Does a COVID Cough Last?

According to the World Health Organization, studies have found that a COVID cough tends to last an average of 19 days after recovery – but an irritated throat can make it feel like forever.

Here’s something easy for you to swallow: There are steps you can take to make the pain less severe and boost your body’s recovery.

Life Hacks for your Dry Cough.

According to, recovery is more than just slamming down liquids to keep your throat moist. You need to balance what you drink with that you eat. You can start by meeting the daily nutritional requirements:

  • Fluid – About 3 Quarts (3 Liters)
  • Calories – Around 2000 to 2500
  • Protein – 75 to 100 Grams

This helps build up your immune system; protein and calories are crucial in the fight as they protect you from muscle loss – especially if COVID-19 leaves you inactive or bedridden.

Food is medicine. This is your prescription.

There are smaller treatments you can take to temporarily numb the pain. You can suck on cough drops, lozenges, or hard candy. Take acetaminophen, cough medicine, or drink hot tea. Even a delicious frozen treat can provide some sweet relief – basically, you have an excuse to eat a little extra ice cream.

Many of the COVID symptoms can last longer than the actual infection. It varies from person to person.

By the time your cough goes away, you might think you can go back to your normal life.


You’re not out of the woods yet.

Continued COVID Cough Concerns.

Following your recovery, you need to ask yourself some questions: “Am I still contagious?” “How long will I be contagious?” “Do I still need to be vaccinated or wear a mask?”

Even after your respiratory system shows signs of recovery, it’s still wise to self-quarantine for at least 72 hours to prevent the spread of potential infection.

Some symptoms such as loss of smell and taste or feeling fatigued might linger, but they aren’t anything to be worried about as in the vast majority of cases they will eventually go away.

If you haven’t been vaccinated, or had COVID-19 and recovered, you should still get vaccinated and wear a mask. Doctors are still researching how to long the vaccine’s effects might last. Based on evidence from clinical trials, both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have proven to be efficient in the fight against COVID. In people 16 years and older, Pfizer is 95% effective, while Moderna is 94.1%. Johnson & Johnson, which is a one-shot vaccine, is only 66.3% effective.

Take a Deep Breath.

On April 15, 2020, Leon Konitz died in New York City from pneumonia brought on by COVID-19. These days, one cough can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Take a deep breath and be mindful of the signs. If you have a cough, do your best to treat it, but always refer to you doctor with any concerns – for you and your family. So, the next time you hear someone cough, you can do more than just wish it would stop – you can act. You’ll breathe easier knowing what to listen and feel for and knowing what actions to take if you, or someone you know, gets COVID-19.

Hruby Headshot

Schedule an appointment today – Call us, or click the link below!

Phone: 605-444-8650

: 7600 South Minnesota Ave Sioux Falls, SD 57108 (85th & Minnesota)

Schedule an Appointment