Phone app tracks long COVID cough

If you’ve contracted the COVID-19 virus, you might have recovered from most symptoms within a few weeks.  However, some people still experience symptoms long after their initial recovery.

Known as long COVID, these symptoms include fatigue, joint pain or fever. But the most common symptom experienced is coughing; it’s seen in about 10–20% of patients. Long COVID has also only just recently been formally defined within children.

To better understand the extended effects of long COVID and to assess recovery prospects, collaborators from the Asan Medical Center, South Korea, Department of Global Health, US, and the National Heart and Lung Institute, UK, looked at the severity of a patient’s cough across a six-week period. Using both a qualitative survey and the smartphone app Hyfe, they recorded the number and severity of coughs a patient was experiencing.

The cough-tracking app uses the mobile handset’s microphone to detect when coughs occur and how bad they are, accurately recording the number and severity. While it can also pick up burps and laughs, it uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify coughs specifically by matching the pitch and intensity of sound to its database. This technology is particularly useful as it doesn’t require the patient to have to actively record coughs themselves. It can also record patient data while they’re asleep.

In the average patient’s first week, about 500 coughs per day were recorderd, with the high-point ‘worst’ day coming in at 1,793 coughs. By week six, most patients’ coughs had dropped to about 100 per day, although the most affected patients’ worst days still reached 500 coughs. These results have been published in Asia Pacific Allergy.

Coughs per day
Longitudinal changes in the daily objective cough frequency over six weeks of treatment. Credit: Kang et al. 2022 / Asia Pacific Allergy.

Using this technology for qualitative long-terms studies is becomingly more frequent across the globe. A recent study in Spain followed 616 patients and measured 62,325 coughs.

The Asia Pacific Allergy study showed more than how a patient’s health can be affected by long COVID. The qualitative survey helped to capture impacts on some patients’ social lives, for instance when they felt stigmatised in public because of their coughs and avoided social situations.

Long covid coughing app
The smartphone app that tracks your coughs. Credit: Hyfe.

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