Coughing is a natural reflex for clearing the throat and lungs of irritants and mucus. Conditions like allergies and acid reflux can cause a dry cough. In some cases, there’s no obvious cause. Regardless of the cause, an ongoing dry cough can seriously impact your day-to-day life, especially if it worsens at night.
There are two types of cough; productive and nonproductive. A productive cough produces phlegm or mucus and clearing it from the lungs through the throat. A nonproductive cough, also known as a dry cough, doesn’t produce phlegm or mucus it may cause a tickling sensation and is often due to irritation in the throat.. An occasional dry cough is rarely a cause for concern, but persistent coughing can indicate an underlying medical condition that may be more serious.
COMMON CAUSES OF COUGH
Asthma is a condition in which your airways swell and become narrowed. Asthma-related coughs can be both productive and nonproductive, but they’re usually non-productive.
GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE
Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a type of chronic acid reflux. It happens when stomach acid regularly flows back up into your esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. Stomach acid can irritate your esophagus and trigger your cough reflex. Other symptoms of GERD includes heart burn, chest pain, regurgitation of food or sour liquid, feeling of a lump in the back of the throat, chronic sore throat, mild hoarseness and difficulty swallowing
Postnasal drip refers to extra mucus dripping down your throat. When a person has cold or seasonal allergies, the membranes in the nose respond by producing more mucus than usual. Unlike normal (healthy) mucus, this mucus is watery and runny, so it drips easily down the back of the throat. Postnasal drip can tickle the nerves in the back of the throat, triggering a cough. Other symptoms of postnasal drip includes sore throat, feeling of a lump in the back of the throat, trouble swallowing, runny nose, coughing at night
When a person gets infected with one of the many viruses that cause the common cold, the short-term symptoms usually last less than a week. It’s not uncommon, however, for a cough to linger long after your other symptoms have improved. These post-cold coughs are usually dry and can last for up to two months. They’re usually the result of irritation in your airway, which is often overly sensitive after a viral illness. This type of cough is difficult to treat and often requires time and patience. Coughing only increases the irritation in your airway, so try using throat lozenges and warm liquids to soothe your throat. This may help to reduce your coughing, giving your airway a chance to heal.
There are many things in the air that can irritate a person’s airways, including smoke, pollution, dust, mold, and pollen. Chemical particles, such as sulfur dioxide or nitric oxide, can also cause problems. Even clean air that’s too dry or too cold can cause a dry cough for some people.
A collapsed lung, also known as a pneumo-thorax, happens when the lungs suddenly deflates. It can happen either on its own or in response to a chest injury. It’s more common in people with underlying lung disease. In addition to a dry cough, a collapsed lung can also cause sudden chest pain and shortness of breath.
While it’s not likely, sometimes an ongoing dry cough can be a sign of lung cancer. A cough related to lung cancer usually doesn’t go away, and it might change over time. For example, your cough might become more painful or have a different sound.
OTHER CAUSES OF A DRY COUGH CAN INCLUDE:
- Cigarette smoking
- Prolonged exposure to pollution, dust, and irritating chemicals
- Some medications, such as ACE-inhibitor drugs for high blood pressure
SOME PREVENTION TIPS FOR DRY COUGH
- Avoiding tobacco smoke
- Drinking plenty of water
- Using a humidifier to moisten the air
- Allergy-proofing the bedroom to reduce irritants
HOW CAN DRY COUGH BE TREATED?
Dry coughs can be difficult to treat. Once the airways become overly sensitive, they are easily irritated by coughing, creating a vicious cycle. There are a few things that can be done for relief, regardless of what’s causing your cough.
- Sucking on throat lozenges to moisturize and soothe irritated throat tissue. Throat lozenges contain ingredients such as honey, menthol, and eucalyptus, which may ease irritation and reduce coughing.
- Taking OTC cough suppressants, such as dextromethorphan (Robitussin), to suppress your cough reflex
- Hot drink to soothe irritated throat tissue
- You can also try these seven natural remedies for coughing.
- Elevating the bed while sleeping with the upper body raised by 6-8 inches can help decrease symptoms of postnasal drip and GERD.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
The bottom line is that try coughs can be annoying, especially when they seem to drag on for weeks. If it starts to wreak havoc on your sleep, you are not sure what is causing it and it starts producing blood or green mucus you should see doctor. Work with your doctor to figure out the best course of treatment, treating the underlying cause is usually the best way to reduce the severity and frequency of a dry cough.
It is also advisable for a person to see a doctor if a dry cough occurs along with any of the following symptoms:
- Feeling of something being stuck in the throat
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Trouble swallowing