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Five Signs Your Cough Could Be Coronavirus

Spot the red flags that can keep COVID-19 in check.

You're likely taking the necessary precautions against the coronavirus: Wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands frequently. But another essential best practice in the COVID-19 era is to stay home when you suspect you're sick. That can be tricky, because many coronavirus symptoms are vague and can be attributable to other causes. Particularly the disease's most common signature: A cough. Here are five signs that your cough could indicate COVID-19—and warrant a call to your healthcare provider for advice. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss all 98 Symptoms Coronavirus Patients Say They've Had.


It's a Dry Cough

Coughing young man at home

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a dry cough is a telltale symptom of coronavirus—between 59% to 82% of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 reported a dry cough as a primary symptom. Conversely: If your cough is productive (meaning it produces mucus), you might have a simple cold or flu. One caveat: Allergies can also produce a dry cough, so don't assume your unproductive hacking is automatically COVID-19. When in doubt, ask a doctor if you should be tested.

RELATED: The CDC Just Announced This New Face Mask Rule


It's Accompanied By Shortness of Breath

Woman with breathing problem

Another hallmark of COVID-19 is shortness of breath—up to 40% of coronavirus patients experience it, sometimes for months after they've technically recovered. If you have trouble catching your breath after coughing, or at other times, it's a red flag you should consult a doctor about.


It's Persistent

Middle aged woman with a sore throat, sick due to a virus, tired and overwhelmed

"Dry" and "persistent" are two of the descriptors most often applied to COVID-related coughing. If you've had a cough that has come and gone over the last month, it might be suspicious for seasonal allergies. But if you have a cough that is consistent, won't go away and/or is worsening, it more likely fits the profile for coronavirus infection.


It's Accompanied By Fever

Young sick woman lies tired in bed with a face mask and holds her head because of a headache.

A fever is the most common symptom of COVID-19—various reviews of coronavirus symptoms worldwide have found that 83% to 99% of people diagnosed with the illness experience a temperature over 100.4 Fahrenheit.


You've Also Lost Your Sense of Smell and/or Taste

Woman Trying to Sense Smell of a Lemon

If your cough occurs alongside this curious symptom, call your doctor and ask whether you should be tested for COVID-19. A loss of smell and/or taste has become known as a telltale symptom of coronavirus infection, likely due to inflammation the virus causes in the neurological system. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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