Managing a cough

If you have Long COVID, you may have a cough that hasn’t gone away yet. On this page, we have support for managing a cough.

Types of cough

If you’re recovering from coronavirus, you might find that you have a cough for some time. You might have a dry cough, or you might have a productive cough, which produces phlegm. If you have a cough with phlegm, your breathing might be noisier than normal, and you may feel like it’s more difficult to breathe. You may also feel like you have a dry throat.

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can help to clear a cough with phlegm. Try the active cycle of breathing techniques, which includes:

  • breathing control – breathing gently, through your nose if possible. Keep your shoulders relaxed
  • deep breathing – taking a long, slow, deep breath in through your nose if possible, holding your breath for 2-3 seconds, and breathing out gently, like a sigh
  • huffing – breathing out through an open mouth instead of coughing. To huff, you squeeze air quickly from your lungs out through your mouth and throat, as if you are trying to mist a mirror.

Read more about the active cycle of breathing techniques on the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care website.

You can also help keep your chest clear by:

  • changing position regularly when sitting or lying down
  • taking any inhalers, antibiotics, or steroids you’ve been prescribed
  • drinking enough water – the NHS recommends 6-8 glasses of fluid a day
  • inhaling steam – you could try sitting in a bathroom with the hot shower running
  • keep your mouth closed when you can, to stop your throat getting dry
  • keeping as active as possible.

If you have another condition that might be causing you to cough, speak to your GP about how you might be able to tell them apart. If you have acid reflux, this could be irritating your chest. Speak to your GP, if this is the case.

Understanding your symptoms

If you’re living with longer-term symptoms of COVID-19, you might need more help and support than you’re currently getting.

Fill out the My Long COVID Needs assessment to help you understand your needs and get advice on what you should do next.

You can use your assessment results to help you explain your symptoms to your GP. Showing your summary report to your GP may make it easier to get referred to local support services, such as a Long COVID Clinic, or help for problems such as work, money, and mental wellbeing.

Quitting smoking

If you smoke, now is a good time to stop. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to protect yourself from viral infections.

Find out how you can get support to stop. You’re around three times more likely to stop successfully if you use a combination of stop smoking treatment and specialist help.

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