Dry cough is rarely a cause of concern in many cases while coughing is normally a reflex for clearing the throat and lungs of irritants.
However, if the coughing is persistent that it may be a sign of underlying medical conditions that may be more serious.
A dry cough or sometimes a tickly cough does not bring up any phlegm or mucus.
It may cause a tickling sensation and is often due to the presence of irritants in your throat.
Most often, doctors refer to dry cough as non-productive cough.
However, in case of wet, or productive, coughs bring up mucus that helps clear the throat and your airway of irritants.
Doctors often classify cough as chronic or acute, a chronic cough lasts longer than 8 weeks, while an acute cough lasts less.
This article sums up the possible causes of dry cough and the medically reviewed treatment options that include cold medicine.
Learn about the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention tips you can take at home.
COVID-19 and Dry Cough
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that is due to the presence of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, and fatigue.
In some cases, individuals may also have body aches, nasal congestion, a runny nose, a sore throat, and even diarrhea.
It can also cause chest pain and breathing difficulties. However, if you do not get treatment in time, it can be even life-threatening.
There is currently no treatment for COVID-10, however, paracetamol can help relieve the symptoms.
YOu should rest at home and stay away from people as much as possible, and if you need a medical emergency, then seek medical attention.
You should call 911 or 988 for advice and in severe cases, you may need to spend time in the hospital.
Asthma and Dry Cough
Asthma is a long-term medical condition that leads to inflammation and narrowing of the airways in your lungs.
One of the most common symptoms of asthma is coughing which is often worse at night or early in the morning.
This coughing is often productive, it brings mucus in your throat, however,r in a type of asthma, cough-variant asthma, the main symptom is a dry cough.
Other symptoms are wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness or pain.
Currently, there is no treatment for asthma, however, you can take steps to relieve the symptoms and prevent them from worsening.
Your doctor will prescribe the following treatment:
An inhaler is a quick relief. This is a short-acting beta-2 agonist for treating symptoms when they flare up.
Long-term medications include a low dose of corticosteroid inhaler that helps to reduce inflammation and prevent future attacks.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, IPF is a condition in which scar tissue develops on your lungs.
As this scar tissue thickens, it can make breathing increasingly difficult.
It is important to note that idiopathic means that your doctor has not been able to know what caused the condition.
One of the most common symptoms of IPF is a dry cough that is persistent. Other symptoms are shortness of breath, loss of appetite, gradual weight loss, fatigue, and clubbing or widening of tips of fingers or toes.
It also affects the shape of your nails.
There is no treatment for IPF currently, however, treatment options aim to relieve the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Treatment options are medications like pirfenidone, nintedanib, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation.
Pulmonary rehabilitation involves exercise, training, and support if you have long-term lung conditions.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal Reflux Diseases GERD is a medication condition where the stomach acid leads back into your esophagus or food pipe.
According to a study, it is chronic and 40% of people will experience dry cough in this condition.
However, another study suggests that 75% of people with GERD may not experience gastrointestinal symptoms.
This can often make it difficult for doctors to diagnose GERD with just a chronic dry cough.
Certain lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of GERD. These are as follows:
Eating multiple small meals instead of large meals, avoiding foods that trigger GERD, like spicy food, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Certain OTC, over-the-counter, and prescription medications like antacids, H2-receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors can help to relieve and prevent the symptoms.
Postnasal Drip and Dry Cough
Postnasal drip occurs when the mucus from your nose and sinuses drips down the back of your throat.
When this happens, it can trigger cough and this cough can be productive and in some cases, can also be dry.
Postnasal drip often occurs with a sinus infection or due to nasal allergy, like hay fever.
Other symptoms are a runny nose, a sore throat, frequent swallowing, or a feeling that there is something in the back of your throat.
The treatment of postnatal drip includes decongestants, nasal sprays, and nasal saline irrigation.
Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infections like the common cold and flu can cause acute coughing.
Most often, the coughing can start off as productive with mucus, however, may become dry as you recover from infection.
Other symptoms of respiratory infections are fever, muscle aches, sore throat, or a runny nose.
You can effectively treat an upper respiratory infection at home by taking enough rest, staying hydrated, and taking OTC medications to relieve aches and fever.
Moreover, your doctor may also prescribe an antiviral medication if you have flu.
Chronic dry cough can sometimes be a symptom of lung cancer, however, other causes of dry cough are more common.
Symptoms of lung cancer include blood coming with cough, chest pain that may worsen with coughing or breathing, weight loss, shortness of breath, weakness, and fatigue.
The treatment of lung cancer depends on the type and stage. Early diagnosis and treatment can help improve an individual’s outlook.
The treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Other causes of dry cough can be as follows:
Environmental Irritants: There are certain substances in the environment that can irritate your airways.
These are smoke, pollution, dust, most, and pollen. Moreover, chemicals like sulfur dioxide, or nitric oxide can also cause problems.
In some cases, even dry air can cause dry coughing.
ACE Inhibitors: ACE inhibitors lie enalapril and lisinopril are prescription drugs that treat a number of conditions like high blood pressure.
However, one of the side effects of ACE inhibitors is a dry cough.
Whooping Cough: Whooping cough or pertussis is a contagious condition that causes a severe dry cough.
It can lead to high pitched whoop sound when you breathe in and most people often confuse it with a common cold.
Collapsed Lung: A collapsed lung or pneumothorax can occur when your lung deflates and can either happen on its own or in response to a chest injury.
However, it is more common in individuals with underlying lung disease.
Heart Failure: This happens when your heart does not pump blood and is common in individuals with coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.
One of the most persistent symptoms of heart failure is a dry cough. However, the cough can be foamy or pink-tinted mucus.
Diagnosis of Dry Cough
To diagnose the cause of your dry cough, your doctor will begin with questions about the symptoms you are experiencing and your medical history.
Then they will perform a physical exam. They might also order other tests and are as follows:
Image Tests: An X-ray or CT scan can create an image of your chest that allows your doctor to check for problems.
Spirometry: Spirometry involves breathing into a plastic device that checks your lung’s functioning.
They use this test to diagnose conditions like asthma or IPF.
Endoscopy: This is a long, thin tube with a camera and light at the end.
With upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, your doctor can insert the tube through your mouth and down the throat to check for problems in the esophagus, stomach, and the beginning of small intestines.
However, for bronchoscopy, your doctor will insert a tube through the mouth, however, in this they will look at the windpipe and airways.
To reduce the severity and frequency of a dry cough, treating its underlying causes is the best treatment.
However, you can also use:
Throat Lozenges: These contain ingredients like honey, menthol, and eucalyptus to ease irritation and reduce coughing.
Cough Suppressants: OTC cough suppressants that contain dextromethorphan can help reduce the cough reflex.
Elevating your Bed: While you sleep, elevating your bed to 6 to 8 inches can help decrease the symptoms of postnasal drip and GERD.
Taking a Hot Shower: Warm water and steam from the shower can help ease throat dryness and irritation.
It is not always possible to prevent a dry cough, however, you can follow certain tips to prevent it. These are:
- avoid smoking or its by-products
- drink plenty of water
- use a humidifier to moisten the air
- making sure to take care of yourself during the allergy season
In cases, your dry cough gets worse, does not go away or you start producing blood or green mucus, you should visit your doctor.
If the following symptoms occur with the dry cough, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible:
Wheezing, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, or a feeling that something that there is something stuck in your throat.
The Bottom Line
Dry cough can often be irritating, especially when it seems to persist, It can cause issues like causing sleep disturbances, thus, you can try certain tips to stop coughing at night.
However, if you are not sure about the causes of it, then you should consult your doctor to figure out the underlying cause and devise a treatment plan. You can use home remedies and OTC medications for relief at home.