Chronic Cough after COVID-19: What can you do about it?

Chronic cough can be a cumbersome condition to deal with for most. Oftentimes, the persistence of a cough is deemed mysterious [1], with patients reportedly struggling with the condition for up to 10 years. As of 2020, we have witnessed a rise in chronic cough as a consequence of COVID-19. A study [2] has reported that up to 2.5% of patients struggled with a chronic cough a year after their COVID-19 diagnosis. We imagine the numbers in Singapore is understated. As with the typical chronic cough, it would be unexaggerated to assume, many have accepted this as their new norm. In this article, we aim to take a deep dive into the potential reasons for chronic coughing after COVID-19 and what remedies are available to overcome this condition.  

What is chronic coughing and what does it have to do with COVID-19?

A cough is considered chronic when it is persistent for over 8 weeks for adults and over 4 weeks for children. In rare cases, patients have claimed to have unresolved coughing for years. In fact, the most inquired query online in Singapore is  “chronic coughing for 10 years”. Unfortunately, many patients become accustomed to coughing and accept it as their new norm after a certain period of time. 

Persistent coughing after COVID-19 is also known as a symptom of “long covid” [3]. It can be understood as an ongoing health problem one faces after the infection of COVID-19. Long-COVID is not a condition on its own, but rather an aftermath of COVID-19. Symptoms of long-covid range from dry cough, chesty cough, fatigue, brain fog, heart palpitations, sensory changes (test and smell), and even mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. 

The prevalence of chronic cough after COVID-19 is indicative of acute respiratory distress. In other words, your respiratory system is affected significantly, leading to its inability to recover fully. 

There are a few reasons why you might have an unresolved cough after COVID-19. The fundamental cause would be inflammation and your body’s management mechanism in dealing with said inflammation. 

For some time, the medical community was dumbfounded [4]about why COVID-19 triggered such an intense inflammatory response. However, recently it has been revealed [5] that the blood cells, monocytes, [6] and macrophages [7]  die off in our body in an attempt to fight a COVID-19 infection, subsequently causing the persistence of inflammation as a response. 

The death of monocyte and macrophage cells causes chronic inflammation in the body.

Chronic coughs and inflammation induced by COVID-19 

Having established that chronic coughs are fundamentally a result of inflammation, let’s look into the mechanism of how this occurs. 

  1. Irritated lungs and lower airways 

Given that COVID-19 is fundamentally a respiratory disease, it is likely that your lungs are significantly inflamed. This causes a pneumonia-like response where your lungs are filled with liquid and are swollen. Cough is the body’s response to overcome this buildup. Even if there is no mucus buildup in your lungs, your coughs may manifest as a “dry cough”. This could signify that your lung cells are at least swollen. 

  1. Interstitial lung disease

Your initial COVID-19 condition has likely undergone a progression march leading to the occurrence of interstitial lung disease (ILD). Also known as diffuse parenchymal lung disease (DPLD),  this condition occurs when excess fibrous or scar tissues form in the lungs as a result of inflammation. This subsequently impairs the ability of effective gaseous exchange (taking in oxygen and dispelling carbon dioxide). 

nterstitial lung disease
Visualisation of the lungs with interstitial lung disease (ILD).
  1. Disruption in the neural pathway

Likely, your cough has not got anything to do with your lungs or your nasal passage. Instead, an inflammation of the nervous system has occurred eliciting cough symptoms. This is not unheard of, and is in fact, almost identical to conditions such as a damaged laryngopharyngeal nerve [8].

  1. Postnasal drip 
Nasal passages
Inflammation of the upper airway may result in chronic cough after COVID-19.

When the upper airway which is made up of nasal passages and sinuses is inflamed, liquid builds up in the area as a response. This fluid is also known as mucus. The mucus subsequently drips into the throat, inflicting a cough, a response as means of dealing with the irritations. 

What should I do about my chronic cough from COVID-19? 

First things first, you need to identify the exact cause of your chronic cough so treatment can be administered. This would mean seeking medical intervention by visiting a respiratory specialist so the necessary treatment can be issued. Depending on the cause of your chronic cough, treatment will vary. 

In the meantime, it is important that you do not exacerbate your condition. There are a few management steps you can take to control your chronic cough condition, however, it is important to remember this does not cure you of your condition. For instance, if a secondary bacterial infection has occurred, you may need a cycle of antibiotics. Determining the cause of your chronic cough is pertinent and non-negotiable. 

Anti-inflammatory diets
Anti-inflammatory diets could help support your immune system when dealing with long-covid chronic coughs.


Chronic cough is not a condition you have to live with for the rest of your life. If you are feeling discouraged because there seems to be no end to your condition, it is about time you seek a specialist so that a thorough investigation can be conducted. The sooner treatment is sought, the better the chances of a speedy recovery. If you are reading this article because your chronic cough has been driving you up the wall, contact us now as a better quality of life awaits you. 

Frequently asked questions

Is my chronic cough infectious?

No. Your chronic cough will not contain any COVID-19 viruses that pose a threat to others. However, if a secondary infection has occurred, your bacterial infection could be contagious. 

Why is there blood in my cough?

If you are coughing up specks of blood with phlegm, you likely have an irritated throat or airway. However, coughing blood (hemoptysis) [10] could also be indicative of serious issues such as bronchitis, lung cancer, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. You must seek the service of your healthcare provider promptly if there is blood in your cough (anywhere from a teaspoon of blood). 

Coughing blood after COVID-19 has been reported previously [11] in cases of COVID-19 and may be indicative of secondary bacterial infection or viral pneumonia. Both require treatment and should not be delayed. 


  1. DuBosar, R. (2018) Solving mysterious chronic cough cases, ACP Internist. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  2. Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, C. et al. (2021) Prevalence of post-COVID-19 cough one year after SARS-COV-2 infection: A multicenter study, Lung. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) Long Covid or post-covid conditions. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  4. Del Valle, D.M. et al. (2020) An inflammatory cytokine signature predicts COVID-19 severity and survival, Nature News. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  5. Del Valle, D.M. et al. (2020a) An inflammatory cytokine signature predicts COVID-19 severity and survival, Nature News. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023). 
  6. Cleveland Clinic (2021) Monocytes: A type of white blood cell - what are normal ranges? Cleveland Clinic. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  7. Mandal, A. (2022) What is a macrophage?, News Medical. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  8. Sherrell, Z. (2023) Laryngeal sensory neuropathy: Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, Medical News Today. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  9. Harvard Health Publishing (2021) Foods that fight inflammation, Staying Healthy. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  10. Corey, R. (no date) Hemoptysis, National Library of Medicine. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023).
  11. Al Maqbali, M., Al badi, K. and Dickens, G.L. (2021) Clinical Features of COVID-19 Patients in the First Year of Pandemic: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Sage Journals. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2023). 

How to Manage a Tunnelled Pleural Catheter Effectively

Have you or a loved one been advised to undergo a tunnelled pleural catheter insertion, and are unsure of what this entails? We will walk you through the steps and what to expect in this article.

At Interventional Pulmonology and Lung Clinic in Singapore, we are experts in lung issues and treatments that offer our patients an improved quality of life. Tunnelled pleural catheter, also known as indwelling pleural catheter, is a treatment commonly used for malignant recurrent pleural effusions.

The purpose of a tunnelled pleural catheter 

A pleural effusion, commonly known as water in the lungs, happens due to excess fluid build-up between the pleural membranes. While it is normal to have some fluid in the pleural membranes of the lungs as a form of lubrication, too much fluid can have serious health consequences. This can be caused by infection, tuberculosis (TB), or cancer.

Besides these risks, having fluid build-up in the lungs also causes unpleasant symptoms such as:

A tunnelled pleural catheter is a catheter that is placed in the lungs for long-term use. It is approximately 66 cm long, made of silicone rubber, with a one-way valve that leads into a negative-pressure bottle. It allows patients to better manage their symptoms from recurrent malignant pleural effusions at home without frequent hospital visits. It works by allowing the drainage of excess fluid through the catheter. 

tunnelled pleural catheter
A tunnelled pleural catheter enables drainage of pleural effusions (fluid) at home.

Inserting a tunnelled pleural catheter

The process of inserting a tunnelled pleural catheter is often a simple procedure. While you can be awake during the procedure, patients may be placed under sedation to minimise discomfort and pain. Complications may include bleeding and infection, but these are rare.

During the procedure, the catheter is slid into small cuts on the chest and into the pleural space. It will be stitched to keep it in place, and then a bandage is placed over it. Some of the effusion fluid may be drained with the catheter to ensure that it is working properly. Afterward, you may be able to go home with instructions from the doctor on when you can shower, change the dressing, and so forth.

excess fluid buildup
A tunnelled pleural catheter can relieve symptoms caused by excess fluid buildup in the lungs.

Caring for a tunnelled pleural catheter at home

Since the catheter is designed to allow you to manage pleural effusions at home, it is important that you or your caregiver receive proper instructions from your doctor on how to drain and clean it. Make sure that you are well-informed and ask any questions you may have before you leave the hospital after the tunnelled pleural catheter insertion. 

Depending on the severity of the lung condition, the amount of drainage you can expect will differ from patient to patient. Your doctor will inform you of this. You will also be given instructions on how to keep the catheter clean and sterile to reduce the risk of infection.

It is also a good idea to keep a log every time drainage is needed so that you can inform your doctor if there are any changes. This includes taking note of the amount of fluid drained, the colour, and any other symptoms you may have. 

Some patients may feel some pain during drainage, so it is important to let your doctor know at your next appointment so that he can prescribe you pain medication if necessary. Plus, your output may slow down, which means that you may no longer need a catheter, which is why monitoring the amount of drainage is often advised.

Always ensure that your hands are clean before and after drainage, or when changing dressings. Wash your hands with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. If your catheter moves or accidentally comes out, or if there are any signs of a potential infection, contact your doctor immediately. 

tunnelled pleural catheter
A tunnelled pleural catheter may be a temporary solution and can be removed when no longer needed. Image: Dana Li et al. Clin Med 2021;21:e561-e566

When to remove a tunnelled pleural catheter

For some patients, needing a pleural catheter is a temporary solution. When the effusions dry up or fluid output slows down drastically, your doctor may suggest removing it. In general, many patients are able to have their catheter removed 3-4 months after insertion.

Contact us if you have questions about lung conditions or tunnelled pleural catheters.


  1. Indwelling Pleural Catheter, 2023. Retrieved from: IP Lung Clinic. 
  2. About Pleural Effusion, 2023. Retrieved from: Penn Medicine. 

Is it necessary to treat tuberculosis?

Before the world was ravaged by COVID-19, there was another highly infectious deadly disease — tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is the second most deadly infectious disease in the world. It was only relinquished of its title of “most deadly infectious disease” when COVID-19 appeared. While COVID-19 is usually easy to treat, with most people not requiring any medication, tuberculosis can be fatal if not treated and treatment takes a minimum of 6 months.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 10.6 million people fell ill with tuberculosis in 2021[1]. In Singapore alone, tuberculosis is endemic, with 1,306 new cases of active tuberculosis among Singapore residents [2].
To understand the gravity of being infected with tuberculosis, we must learn more about what it is and how it affects us.

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is a highly infectious disease caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB usually affects the lungs but can spread to other parts of the body such as the brain and spine. It is passed from person to person via respiratory droplets, but not everyone exposed to TB will develop symptoms.

There are two types of TB:

What are the symptoms of active TB?

The symptoms of active TB are as follows:

How is TB diagnosed?

TB is diagnosed in the following ways:

How is TB treated?

Both latent and active TB must be treated to prevent symptoms or the worsening of symptoms. Treatment usually involves a combination of antibiotics that must be taken over the course of 6 months to a year. After a few weeks of treatment, you will no longer be contagious — but you must continue with your treatment until the course of antibiotics is complete.
While most TB infections can be cured using antibiotics, there are some TB infections that are drug resistant. This means that the TB-causing bacteria have developed and is now resistant to certain medications. Hence a different group of medications will be used to treat it and must be taken for a much longer period of time, approximately 30 months or two and a half years.
Since TB is treated using antibiotics, the whole course of medication needs to be completed regardless of how you feel or if your symptoms are alleviated. If you do not complete the whole course of antibiotics, the TB-causing bacteria can multiply and grow back and may even become drug-resistant, making them even harder to eradicate.

What happens if TB is left untreated?

TB is not a disease that will go away on its own.
In fact, if TB is left untreated, 45% of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) negative individuals will die, while nearly all HIV-positive individuals will die.
Furthermore, if you have untreated active TB, you can go on to infect 5-15 people at any one time as TB is easily spread when you speak, cough, sneeze, laugh, or spit, and it does not require a high concentration of bacteria to spread and infect others.

If active TB is left untreated, it could:

Although individuals with latent TB do not have any symptoms and are not contagious, it is still important to treat them because their infection can progress to active TB if their immune system weakens or if they start taking immunosuppressive drugs.

What are the possible side effects/complications of TB medications?

Some individuals may experience the following side effects from TB medications:

What should I do if I have TB?

TB is curable if you adhere strictly to your treatment regime. If you have just been diagnosed with TB, you must observe the following to keep your loved ones safe:

What can I do to reduce my risk of an active TB infection?

There are various ways in which you can reduce your risk of an active TB infection, these are:

In conclusion, treatment for TB is absolutely necessary and should be started immediately once you have tested positive. Remember to complete all medications and isolate yourself for the first two weeks of treatment. TB is curable and is no longer the death sentence it once was. Get treated and get cured!

Any questions? Leave them for me here.


  1. World Health Organization. (2022, October 27). Tuberculosis. Retrieved from World Health Organization:
  2. Ministry of Health Singapore. (2022, March 24). Update on Tuberculosis Situation in Singapore. Retrieved from Ministry of Health Singapore:

Is asthma always triggered by allergies?

Asthma is a relatively common condition. According to a National Health Survey conducted from 2016-2018, approximately 11.9%[1] of Singaporeans aged between 18-60 were affected by asthma at some point of their lives.
To better understand what asthma is, let’s first understand how our lungs work, and then we can learn about allergic asthma.

How do our lungs work, and what is asthma?

Breathing is something we do without even thinking, but the whole breathing process is intricate and complicated. When you breathe, air travels down your throat and into your lungs. Within your lungs are tiny airways known as alveoli. Once air reaches the alveoli, it transfers to the surrounding blood vessels and is transported all over your body.

However, when someone has asthma, this process gets affected negatively, at times making breathing difficult.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways in the lungs. It occurs when the airways and surrounding muscles swell and tighten. This causes a significant narrowing of the airways, leading to production of mucus which also contributes to the narrowed airways, making breathing difficult. The severity of asthma varies between individuals ranging from mild irritation to life-threatening.

Types of asthma

For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on allergic asthma.

Can allergies cause asthma?

Yes, allergic asthma, or allergy-induced asthma, is asthma that is triggered by various allergens. These can range from pollen to even cockroaches; but often allergens that cause allergic rhinitis/hay fever have been known to trigger an allergic asthma attack.

An allergic reaction is caused by an over-reaction of our immune system. The main function of the immune system is to protect our body from dangerous or harmful substances that can make us sick.

However, sometimes the immune system mistakenly identifies harmless substances such as food, dust, pollen or other everyday items as harmful. When this happens, our body overproduces immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody when present in excess can cause your airways to:

Worldwide, allergic asthma is responsible for 90%[1] and 50% of asthma cases in children and adults respectively.

What are the common causes of allergic asthma in Singapore?

According to Asthma Singapore [2], the common causes of allergic asthma in Singapore are:

How do I know if I have allergic asthma?

If you experience the following symptoms, you may have allergic asthma:

Symptoms that you might experience in conjunction with allergic asthma are:

Do I have asthma or just allergies?

One of the best ways to identify if you have asthma or allergies is to figure out where the reaction happens.

If you are experiencing symptoms in just your nose such as sneezing, congestion, watery nose, then chances are that you are having an allergic reaction. However, if you are experiencing symptoms in your lungs such as wheezing, chest tightness, breathlessness, then you are having an asthma attack.

Asthma attacks can vary in intensity and you must ensure that you have a treatment plan ready to help alleviate your symptoms and prevent them from escalating.
You are at a higher risk of developing allergic asthma if you:

How is allergic asthma diagnosed?

Diagnosing allergic asthma is two-fold. First, an allergy test in conducted, then further tests will be conducted to diagnose for asthma.

Allergy test

Asthma testing

If your respiratory specialist (or pulmonologist) suspects that you have asthma based on your medical history and physical examination, the following diagnostic tests will be conducted for a more accurate diagnosis:

Will allergic asthma go away?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition and there is no cure.
The main goal for asthma treatment is maintaining good control of your condition by reducing or minimising exposure to triggers. Continuous management and monitoring by your respiratory specialist are important.
In addition to reducing or minimising exposure to triggers, asthma can be treated with the following medications:

Allergies can be treated in the following ways:

Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to drop me a message.


  1. Anitha Jeyagurunathan, E. A. (2021). Asthma Prevalence and its Risk Factors Among a Multi-Ethnic Adult Population. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 417-427.
  2. Asthma Singapore. (2016, April 26). Understand and manage asthma triggers. Retrieved from Asthma Singapore:

Smoking and lung cancer: What’s my risk?

Smoking is a lifestyle habit that has been linked to multiple diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and multiple types of cancer. According to the Singapore Cancer Society1 and the World Health Organization (WHO)2, smoking is associated with at least 6 million deaths worldwide every year. If you are a smoker or know someone who smokes, read on to find out more about how smoking is associated with lung cancer.

What is lung cancer?

Our respiratory system is made up of organs and tissues that help us to breathe, with the lungs being the main organ involved. The lungs are two spongy organs made up of the right and left lung and are where the exchange of gases occurs.
When air is breathed in, it goes into the lungs which consist of the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli. The exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) occurs here between the alveoli and the blood, for the removal of carbon dioxide and the supply of fresh oxygen.

Cancer occurs when cells in the body grow exponentially and out of control. When this originates in the lungs, it is known as lung cancer.
There are two main types of lung cancer:

The most damaging characteristic of cancer is its ability to spread or metastasize to other parts of the body, which results in high mortality rates.
There are 5 stages of lung cancer – the higher the stage, the bigger the tumour and more severe the cancer. By stage 4, the cancer has already spread to neighbouring lymph nodes or other organs such as the brain or stomach.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Lung cancer does not usually cause symptoms when it is still in the early stages. If symptoms are showing, it means that the lung cancer is already in the advanced stages.
Symptoms may include:

How is smoking associated with lung cancer?

Smoking has long been associated with lung cancer and that is because cigarettes contain 7000 toxic chemicals with at least 70 known to be cancer causing. When smoke is inhaled, these chemicals enter your lungs and damage the DNA or deoxyribonucleic acids of your lung cells. Initially, your body responds by healing the damage; however, as time progresses and your smoking increases, your body will no longer be able to heal the damage, resulting in the formation of cancer cells.

These toxic chemicals also weaken your immune system making you more susceptible to infections and also reducing your body’s ability to identify, fight, and kill cancer cells. This coupled with the damaged DNA of lung cells, will result in the exponential and out of control growth and spread of cancer cells.
Smoking has also been associated with other types of cancers and diseases such as:

How common is lung cancer in smokers?

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals who smoke are 15-30 times more likely to get or die from lung cancer than individuals who do not smoke3. Your risk of lung cancer increases with each day and cigarette you smoke. Studies have shown that even smoking just one cigarette a day puts you at an increased risk of lung cancer and other medical conditions.
People who quit smoking reduce their risk of lung cancer; this is also true for individuals exposed to secondhand smoke. Removing yourself from smokey situations can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.
Although smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, there are also other causes such as:

What is the rate of lung cancer in Singapore?

The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) reported that lung cancer is the 3rd most common cancer diagnosed in both males and females in Singapore4. It has the highest rate of mortality (death) in Singapore because they are usually only discovered when symptoms start to show which is when the cancer is already in the advanced stages.

How can I reduce my risk of lung cancer?

In conclusion…

Smoking puts you at very high risk of lung cancer – not just yourself, but for your loved ones as well when they inhale your secondhand smoke.
If you are a smoker and want to screen or assess your risk for lung cancer, feel free to drop me a message and my friendly team will get in touch.


  1. Singapore Cancer Society. (2022). Live a smoke-free life: What you should know about smoking. Retrieved from Singapore Cancer Society:
  2. World Health Organization. (2022, May 24). Tobacco. Retrieved from World Health Organization:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, October 25). Lung Cancer. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  4. National Cancer Centre Singapore. (2022, March 8). Cancer Statistics. Retrieved from National Cancer Centre Singapore: