Dry irritating cough that does not go away easily is not unusual to anyone of us. For varying reasons, we happen to face this sickness sometime in our childhood or as grown-ups. What is this dry cough, why it happens and what all can be done to get rid of it? Let’s get to know all this in this article.
A dry cough is a non-performing cough and produces no mucus (thick mucus). Many with dry cough have an itchy throat feeling and strong irritation in the chest region.
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Different Types of Cough
The different types of cough are as follows - Barky Cough, also called “Coup” is a common viral illness in children that leads to swelling of the throat and the trachea. Coup is caused by a viral infection, mainly a parainfluenza virus. The throat swelling changes the voice into a hoarse voice or a “barky cough”.
Whooping Cough (pertussis) - It's a very infectious respiratory disease. It's a bacterial infection from Bordetella pertussis. In whooping cough, there is uncontainable, violent coughing which makes breathing difficult.
Wheezing cough – It is a sharp whistle (wheezing) at the moment of exhalation. It results due to swelling of the lower respiratory tract, or obstruction by a foreign object. The causes of wheezing cough include asthma or bronchiolitis.
Nighttime Cough (nocturnal cough) – It is a cough that mostly occurs at night when lying down (postural cough). Usually, night cough is a symptom of conditions affecting the throat and lungs; or a more generalized condition, like a common cold or the flu.
Daytime Cough – As the name suggests this type of cough occurs during the daytime. The common causes are asthma, cold, and allergies. Cold climatic conditions or some activity can increase the intensity of cough.
Cough with fever – A child showing symptoms like cough, mild fever, and runny nose might be having a common cold. But coughing along with a high fever 102°F (39°C) or higher could be an indication of pneumonia, particularly if the child is feeling weak and breathing fast. In such a case, it is advisable to call the doctor immediately.
Cough with vomiting – A cough with nausea and vomiting can be due to reflux (GERD) or flu. This type of cough is mostly observed in children. It is considered harmless unless the vomiting stops.
Persistent cough - Cough is considered chronic or persistent if it continues longer than eight weeks in adults and four weeks in kids. Smoking, heart, or lung diseases are considered the main reasons for chronic coughing.
Dry cough during pregnancy occurs due to many reasons, one of them being the increase in estrogen levels in the body. During pregnancy immunity decreases, therefore the body is more at risk of allergies and coughs.
Some of the causes of dry cough during pregnancy are –
Coughing during pregnancy does nothing to hurt the baby. However, certain causes of coughing may affect the baby, such as asthma, bronchitis, or pneumonia. Pregnant women should consult a doctor if they suffer from a persistent cough or any respiratory illness that is affecting their overall health.
Causes of Dry Cough
The causes of dry cough include –
Common Cold or influenza (the flu)
Croup (observed in children)
Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or laryngopharyngeal reflux
Foreign body inhalation
Vocal Cord Dysfunction
Whooping Cough (pertussis)
Medication side-effects, for example, high blood pressure drugs
Other rare health problems can give rise to dry cough, namely -
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Diagnosis For Dry Cough -
To determine what's causing dry cough, the physician will ask about the person’s symptoms, medical history and conduct a physical examination.
Some of the diagnostic tests include:
Lung function tests
Dry Cough Treatments
Firstly, it is crucial to know the cause of dry cough to decide on a treatment. Dry cough treatment options are as follows Decongestants - When we suffer from a viral infection such as the common cold, there is swelling of the lining of the nostrils and also nasal blockage. Decongestants are medicines that help to relieve stuffy nose (nasal congestion), by narrowing the blood vessels and decreasing the flow of blood to the swollen tissues in the nose, which in turn reduces dry cough symptoms.
Cough Suppressants (antitussives) - Suppressants control dry cough by suppressing the cough reflex and provide relief from painful dry coughs and prevent insomnia.
Home Remedies For Dry Cough
We can follow dry cough treatments at home to gain relief from its symptoms –
Honey – Adults and children can use honey as a dry cough treatment. It has antibacterial properties and it also helps to coat the back of the throat (pharynx) to reduce the irritation that triggers a dry cough.
Turmeric - Turmeric includes curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and antibacterial properties for the treatment of dry cough. Turmeric is used for ages in the field of ayurvedic medicine to cure various respiratory diseases.
Ginger – Ginger is antimicrobial as well as anti-inflammatory. Ginger tea along with honey is good to get rid of dry cough and nasal blockage. Ginger can prevent cough by causing smooth muscle relaxation of the airways.
Gargling saltwater - Gargling saltwater for dry cough is a productive cough treatment. Gargling with salty water helps remove mucus from the back of the throat, which lessens the urge to cough.
Humidifier – Breathing in dry air can aggravate throat inflammation and causes dry cough at night. A humidifier can alleviate it and provide a good night’s sleep.
Steam inhalation - Steam for dry cough is a well-known home remedy. Hot steam can help moisturize dry and inflamed nasal cavities, ease throat pain, and decrease cough severity. Steam therapy won’t cure an infection like a cold or the flu; it will surely assist to reduce the discomfort.
Drink plenty of fluids – Drinking fluids, such as warm ones like hot tea, chicken soup, and hot water is a good home remedy for cough. The warm liquids soothe a sore throat and lessen mucus, thus relieving cough discomfort.
Lozenges for cough – It dissolves slowly in the mouth to temporarily resist coughs, lubricate, and soothe itchy throat tissues.
When to see a doctor for dry cough?
Usually, a cough subsides on its own within a few days or weeks. But if a cough is turning up into a chronic cough, which means its staying for many weeks along with other health problems, then it's a good idea to visit a doctor.
It is advisable to consult a doctor in the case of the following conditions -
Coughing up greenish-yellow, thick phlegm
Coughing up blood
Pain during breathing
Swelling of ankle
Choking or vomiting
There are many other questions about dry cough that you might be seeking answers for.
Is dry cough a sign of covid-19?
Dry cough could be a possible symptom of Covid-19, however, cough also occurs due to other reasons also such as asthma, allergies, pneumonia, smoking, etc.
Can a dry cough be infectious?
Yes, depending upon the cause, a dry cough can be infectious.
Is dry cough a cancer symptom?
Persistent dry cough can be a result of pleural mesothelioma and an early cancer warning sign.
Is dry cough a cause for concern?
Usually, dry cough subsides within a few days or a few weeks. But it is advisable to consult a doctor if your cough is getting worst or you are experiencing chest pain, breathlessness, and weakness.
Can dry cough cause chest pain?
A dry cough that is very uncontrollable or long-lasting (chronic cough) can put pressure on the lungs or chest muscles. Due to this, many people may develop chest tightness along with a cough.