Now’s a great time to stock up on free COVID-19 tests available to Washington residents at: (Jennifer Bardsley)

Now’s a great time to stock up on free COVID-19 tests available to Washington residents at: (Jennifer Bardsley)

COVID-19’s behind her except for a nagging cough

But things might have been much different — in a bad way — without testing and vaccines.

[Cough cough] Don’t worry, I’m not sick, although I did have COVID-19 last month. That was tricky because I have sensitive lungs. I always have my inhaler nearby and take a variety of asthma and allergy medicine each night. Did COVID make my lungs worse? I don’t think so, but I would like to get rid of this phantom cough.

For 2½ years my family’s fortress was strong. COVID did not enter our house. We wore masks. We practiced social distancing. We were vaccinated and boosted. Trips were canceled. Holidays happened on Zoom. We eased back into 2021-2022 life with hope and buckets of hand sanitizer. Then, in June, COVID breached the perimeter. As soon as it entered the house I fell like a domino.

Here’s the thing that surprised me most about catching COVID: Yes, it was highly contagious, but my symptoms weren’t that bad. My Moderna vaccines protected me. I developed a sore throat, runny nose, achy back and cough, but I never spiked a fever. I also lost my sense of smell, which meant I could slather on Vicks VapoRub without gagging.

Since I have sensitive lungs, my doctor prescribed the antiviral drug Paxlovid. It made my mouth taste grapefruit and milk mixed together for several days, an unfortunate side effect called “Paxlovid mouth,” but it kept me from getting sicker.

I spent the first week in bed or on the couch watching TV. Doped up on DayQuil, I binged three seasons of the dystopian thriller “Westworld” on HBO Max. Let me tell you, robots rebelling against humanity is even scarier when you’re on cold meds. I was too discombobulated to write, but I did manage to keep my social media feeds updated for an upcoming book launch.

The second week, I felt well enough that if I had an in-person office day job I could probably have handled it, masked up with a box of tissues handy. That would have been in line with the CDC recommendations that say if your symptoms are improving you can end isolation after five days so long as you wear a well-fitting mask. But since I work from home, I continued to isolate. There was no point in me going anywhere. I even had my groceries delivered. I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

By the third week, I felt almost completely fine. My runny nose had stopped and aside from fatigue, I was close to my normal self.

[Cough cough.] Now, over a month later, I feel perfectly normal except for my lingering phantom cough. That happens to me with many illnesses. My lungs become inflamed and take a while to calm the heck down.

When a second booster shot becomes available for my age group, I’m definitely going to get it. I’ve also ordered another batch of free COVID tests available to Washington residents at: My COVID story might have been a lot different without testing and vaccines helping me. Phantom coughs I can deal with, but a trip to the hospital? No thank you.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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