How to Deal with Dry Cough?
A dry cough doesn’t produce mucus. It clears on its own within 3-4 weeks. Cough syrups, lozenges, and home remedies like honey-lemon water can help.
A dry cough, also called unproductive cough, is a common type that can follow a cold, flu, or even COVID-19. You’ll typically feel a persistent tickling at the back of your throat. The constant coughing can lead to a sore throat since you’re expelling air and not mucus. Most dry coughs clear up when you address their underlying causes. You can try simple remedies to ease your discomfort, like drinking hot tea and warm water, using a humidifier or over-the-counter cures like cough syrups. In some rare cases, conditions like GERD, heart failure, and lung cancer can also cause a dry cough.
What is a Cough?
A cough is your body’s way of clearing irritants from your lungs and airways, allowing you to breathe better. A cough affects your respiratory system, leading to the coughing up of mucus, known as a ‘wet cough’. This productive cough helps clear phlegm from the lungs and airways, preventing shortness of breath. In contrast, a dry cough doesn’t produce mucus, resulting in nothing coming up when you cough.
The most common cause of a cough is a cold or flu, but other factors can lead to it, including:
- Smoking: Inhaling smoke, whether from cigarettes, secondhand smoke, or environmental sources like wildfires, can irritate the airways and lead to coughing.
- Allergies: If you’re allergic to pollen, dust, pet dander, or other allergens, they can tickle your throat and trigger a dry cough.
- Bronchitis: When you catch bronchitis, especially the non-infectious kind, it can result in a dry cough. Your airways get inflamed and your throat feels itchy.
- Croup (in Children): Croup is a viral infection that affects the windpipe and voice box in children. It often causes a distinctive barking cough that’s decidedly dry.
- Pneumonia: With pneumonia, you have chest pain and fever; it can also lead to a persistent dry cough.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD): GERD, a condition where stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus, can lead to irritation of the throat and a chronic dry cough.
- Side Effects of Medications: Some medications, especially those used to manage high blood pressure or heart issues, can come with a side effect of a dry cough.
- Asthma: Asthma can also lead to dry coughing. When airways become overly sensitive, they can react to triggers like pollen or dust with a cough.
- Exposure to Chemicals: If your job or environment exposes you to harsh chemicals or pollutants, your throat might catch a dry cough to expel the irritants.
How to Deal with a Dry Cough?
There are home remedies that can alleviate a dry cough:
- Staying Hydrated: Drink liquids like soup and tea. You can also take hot water with honey and lemon to soothe the irritated throat and airways.
- Lozenges and Hard Candies: Sucking on candies helps create saliva, which soothes the throat. However, avoid giving them to children under 4 to prevent choking.
- Honey: Taking a spoonful of honey or mixing it with hot water eases your throat discomfort, thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that act as a cough suppressant.
- Use a Humidifier: Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier hydrates your nasal passages, improves throat pain, and alleviates dry coughs.
- Saltwater Gargle: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle for 30 seconds to soothe inflamed tissues and eliminate bacteria in the mouth and throat.
Over-the-counter medications can also help with mild coughs in adults. You can purchase cough syrup, cough medicine, or pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
For kids, consult a paediatrician for the right medication and proper dosage for children under 4 years old.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
You should consult a doctor if:
- You have been coughing for more than 3 weeks
- You experience a persistent, hacking cough
- You feel chest tightness and pain
- You are losing weight without apparent reasons
- You have swollen and painful glands
- Breathing becomes difficult for you
- You are coughing up blood
Chronic coughs could also indicate underlying illnesses like COPD, cystic fibrosis, heart failure, lung cancer, pulmonary embolism, sleep apnoea, or tuberculosis. These require immediate medical care, and your healthcare provider will prescribe appropriate treatment while investigating the cause.
Thus, in conclusion, it could be said that various health conditions can cause a dry cough. You should treat it with home remedies initially, but if the symptoms are not reducing, try over-the-counter medicines such as cough syrups, paracetamol and candies. Rarely, a dry cough can lead to severe health conditions. Consult a doctor if your cough has lingered over three weeks and isn’t reducing.