The difference between a mild cold and the deadly coronavirus may come down to what type of cough you have.
The flu-like disease has infected more than 100,000 people globally, killed more than 3,000 and thrown everything from the stock market to the travel industry into chaos as fears of its spread worsen. Adding to the uncertainty of its toll: the fact that its symptoms are so similar to everyday illnesses.
“People are worried, for rightful reasons,” says Dr. Waleed Javaid, director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown.
While a fever is the most common symptom of coronavirus (COVID-19), about two-thirds (67.7%) of patients get a cough — specifically a dry cough, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“A dry cough is what we call a non-productive cough, because no phlegm is brought up,” Javaid tells The Post. It is usually characterized by a scratchy throat.
A wet cough, on the other hand, produces mucus and can feel like rattling in one’s chest. It can also cause a person to wheeze. This may be a symptom of something more benign, such as a cold or allergies. Bronchitis and pneumonia also often come with a wet cough, Javaid says.
Other, less common symptoms of coronavirus include mucus production (33.4% of patients with coronavirus have experienced it) — meaning, a smaller portion of people with the disease had a so-called wet cough.
“A cough in itself is a concern, but a dry cough would make it a higher concern,” Javaid says. More importantly, a cough in addition to a persistent fever should raise a red flag. “Combination of symptoms is more important. Any kind of cough and fever would be very concerning.”
Additional symptoms include shortness of breath (18.6% of patients with coronavirus), a sore throat (13.9%) and a headache (13.6%), according to the WHO.
But, Javaid says, a dry cough doesn’t necessarily mean you have coronavirus — and even if you do, your odds of getting better are very high. “A dry cough in itself can happen for hundreds of different reasons.”
Whether a cough is dry or wet, patients should stay inside and monitor symptoms. If the fever and cough last, it may be time to call a doctor. The vast majority of people should be more concerned about preventing the illness from spreading. Prevention tactics include hand-washing, disinfecting your surroundings and not touching your face.
Map of coronavirus cases in the US
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