Long COVID: Cough

Coughing is the body’s way of protecting the lungs and getting rid of things that irritate them. This is a normal and important function.

Types of cough

Some infections can leave you with a dry cough because your lungs have been irritated. This should slowly disappear during the course of your recovery. It's not clear how long after coronavirus (COVID-19) you may have a cough and it can be frustrating at times.

A dry cough is one of the most common coronavirus symptoms, but some people may have a cough with phlegm (thick mucus).

It can be difficult to control your cough but there are a few ways to help.

Ways 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 don't have a drink near you
  • blow your nose if you have a runny nose – try not to sniff

You can also use positions to ease breathing if you cough when you go to bed.

Avoid things that make you cough, for example:

  • smoking
  • smoky atmospheres
  • air fresheners
  • strong smelling candles
  • strong perfumes or deodorants

Ways to help a cough with phlegm


  • 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

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP practice if:

  • you've had a cough for more than 3 weeks
  • you're 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're worried about your symptoms
  • you're worried about long COVID symptoms in a child or young person under 18

Last updated:
13 January 2023

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