What is a dry persistent cough and is it a coronavirus symptom? – The Sun
18th March 2020
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CORONAVIRUS is spreading fast with nearly 200,000 people known to be infected and more than 7,900 deaths recorded worldwide.

And members of the public are now being warned to look out for a dry persistent cough – one of the key symptoms of Covid-19.

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It comes as in the UK alone, there has been a dramatic surge in cases in recent days with 1950 now infected, and 71 confirmed deaths.

Last week the government released guidelines explaining that people should self-isolate for seven days if they are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, including a dry persistent cough.

Here, we take you through this main symptom and how to protect yourself and your family…

What is a dry persistent cough?

A dry persistent cough is a ‘classic’ symptom of coronavirus, according to Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of Patientaccess.com.

She says a dry persistent cough is…

  1. New for you (or different from your normal cough if, for instance, you have a ‘smoker’s cough’)
  2. Persistent – not just because you’re clearing your throat or because you have something caught in your throat.
  3. It needs to last for at least half a day
  4. A dry (rather than ‘fruity’ cough is more likely to be due to coronavirus, but you need to self-isolate regardless of whether your cough is dry or productive.

The NHS describes a "dry cough" as a cough where no phlegm or mucus is produced, which is also irritating and usually associated with a tickly throat.

The other symptoms

As well as a dry persistent cough, health officials say the two other most common symptoms of coronavirus infection usually include a high temperature and shortness of breath.

However, as Covid-19 is a new virus, experts are still working to understand it.

Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea – but these are usually mild and begin gradually.

Developing these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the illness and they are similar to other illnesses, such as the common cold or flu.

Some people will not develop all of these symptoms –  and some might not even show symptoms at all, experts say.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK's chief scientific adviser, said: "It looks quite likely that there is some degree of asymptomatic transmission.

"There’s definitely quite a lot of transmission very early in the disease when there are very mild symptoms."

Around one out of every six who gets Covid-19 become seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing, according to the WHO.

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are at most risk developing serious illness.

This can include pneumonia and swelling in the lungs, which can make it hard for the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream – leading to organ failure and death.

Severe pneumonia can kill people by causing them to "drown" in the fluid flooding their lungs.

People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention, the WHO says.

If you're in doubt whether you have coronavirus you can visit the Patient Access' clinically approved coronavirus checking tool here.

How quickly coronavirus symptoms start

Symptoms are thought to appear between two and 11 days.

New research has found that the average incubation period of Covid-19 is 5.1 days.

A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US found that almost all (97.5 per cent) of those who develop symptoms appeared to do so within 11.5 days of infection.

Experts say there is little evidence to suggest that people can spread the virus without showing symptoms.

How to protect yourself

The best way to prevent catching any form of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene, health experts say.

Health bosses say the best way to protect yourself and others is to wash your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

Happy Birthday takes about 20 seconds to sing twice and is said to be the perfect number to clean your hands to thoroughly.

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.


Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

If Covid-19 is spreading in your community, take extra measures to put distance between yourself and other people – especially those who are more vulnerable – to further reduce your risk of being exposed to this new virus.

Stay at home as much as possible and consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social, or commercial networks.

According to a 2015 study in the American Journal of Infection Control, people touch their faces more than 20 times an hour on average.

However, you'll need to try your best not to do this if you want to protect yourself from coronavirus.

This is because we're constantly touching surfaces contaminated with pathogens such as doorknobs, phones and handrails.

These pathogens can be picked up by our hands and get into the body through mucous membranes on the face — eyes, nose, and mouth — that act as pathways to the throat and lungs.

Also, make sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.

Throw used tissues in the bin straight away.

It's hard to know when someone is going to cough or sneeze, but if you can, try and avoid standing within two metres of them.

Droplets from a cough or sneeze can travel up to approximately 7ft (2.1m) when expelled through the air.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.

This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, counter tops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

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