Whenever there is any blockage or irritant in your throat or upper passage of the airway, the brain sends a signal to your body to get rid of the foreign element by coughing. There are two types of cough, the first one being wet cough and the second is called dry cough. Both are associated with different conditions.
Wet Coughs - Also termed as productive coughs, wet coughs clear mucus (phlegm) from the upper airways passage. This clearing is a natural cleansing process of the body hence it should not be suppressed.
Dry Cough - Refers to a cough which produces little or no mucus (phlegm). Dry cough is also termed as non-productive cough. It feels as if something is stuck in the throat and one cannot get it out even after constant coughing. Some people may even feel the presence of a lump in their throat. Dry cough is also referred to as tickly cough since it can cause a tickling sensation in the back of ones throat.
Diagnosis of Cough
Once you visit the doctor, they will ask you for the symptoms and listen to the cough sound. They will also make a note of your chest sounds to check for any congestion. The doctor may also ask you to undergo X-ray for more details.
What Are the Causes of Dry Cough?
Dry cough is caused due to the number of reasons. The common reasons for dry cough are mentioned below:
Viral Infections – One of the most common causes of dry cough is a result of infection caused by cold or flu viruses, intake of cold drinks, or ice-creams. These coughs appear usually at the start of an illness or most likely at the middle or end of the infection. The cough may stay long after other symptoms disappear.
Allergies – Atmospheric pollutants can trigger such coughing. For example, allergy to grass or any specific plant pollen and sensitivity towards any animal fur. Usually, allergies also cause irritation in eyes or throat which ultimately leads to cough.
Air Pollutants – Especially seen in cases of non-smokers when they come in contact with cigarette smoke. Also, smoke from industries and chemical pollutants cause congestion in the respiratory tract which can lead to dry cough.
Acid or Gastric Reflux – When the acidic contents of the stomach travel upwards at the back of the throat, minute amounts of acid may enter the respiratory tract causing itching and coughing. Other symptoms a person may experience during such reflux are heartburn or burning in the throat. It is also medically termed as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Reduction in Fluid intake – One needs to drink a lot of fluids in the form or water, juices, or soup during cold or cough. These fluids help to loosen the mucus so you can cough it up. Avoid alcohol or caffeine drinks because they can dehydrate you.
Medication Side-Effect - One can also develop cough due to the intake of certain medications. If you are experiencing such side-effects, Talk to your doctor for another prescription instead of completely stopping that medication.
Nervousness or Stress – Many people experience dry cough when they are nervous or in a stressful condition. When one gets anxious, breathing becomes shallow which causes cough. At times this becomes a problem if in an uncomfortable situation.
Psychological Conditions – When coughing becomes a habit rather than any medical illness. At times the person does not even realize when he or she is coughing. This is also termed as psychogenic cough. An examples would be coughing early in the morning when one is awake, the cough then goes away once the person is done with brushing their teeth.
Any type of cough is a nuisance hence one must always ensure to consult the doctor if a cough worsens.
Health Problems Due to Continuous Dry Cough
If a person experiences dry cough continuously for three weeks then it may be an indication of a serious health issue such as:
What Are the Home Remedies to Treat Dry Cough?
Finding the root cause of the cough is the key element to treating it. You can try some natural and readily available home remedies instead of going in for cough syrups. Mentioned below are some of the best home remedies for dry cough:
- Honey - Honey is one of the oldest proven solutions for dry cough. It soothes the tissues at the back of the throat by eliminating mucus. It has strong antioxidant and antimicrobial properties which can relieve sore throat. Honey is also one of the commonly used components in cough syrups. Mixing a few drops of honey with warm water or warm milk is an ideal way of consuming it.
Turmeric - Due to its antiviral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties turmeric is considered quite effective in treating cough and cold. Having a glass of warm milk with some turmeric is a very common method.
- Ginger - Ginger also is a common ingredient in cough syrups since it helps to soothe irritation and tickling sensation caused by a sore throat. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it acts as a cleansing agent on your respiratory system. Chewing slices of ginger or rubbing your chest with ginger oil are common home remedies to ease cough.
- Garlic - Garlic boosts your immune system with its antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-bacterial properties. It also has an active agent called ‘allicin’ which is responsible for the pungent strong odor and has a lot of health benefits. It also helps to boost immunity. Mixing garlic with honey and clove oil helps to relieve cough and sore throat. Add two to three cloves of garlic along with oregano in boiling water. Once the mixture is cooled off, add honey and drink it.
- Lemon - Lemon provides a dose of vitamin C which fights off infection and reduces inflammation. It can be used in a variety of ways to cure cough. Combining two tablespoons of honey with lemon juice acts as a quick and easy cough syrup.
- Hot Milk with Honey - Honey with hot milk reduces chest pain and also soothes cough. Drink it before going to sleep for best results.
- Steam Inhalation - Steam inhalation helps to soothe the sore irritated throat and moistens the airways.
- Mint Leaves - Mint has a very strong odor. It allows relaxed breathing and opens up the airways. Its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help relieve inflammation. Mint tea also helps boost immunity.
- Gargle - Salt water helps to ease the discomfort caused by cough and treat sore throat. Gargling with warm salt water is one of the common home remedies.
- Drinking Warm Water - Sip warm water throughout the day to reduce throat dryness.
If untreated, dry cough can cause a lot of complications. Therefore, it is important to make a note of when to visit the doctor. When over-the-counter medications or home remedies do not help, this means it's time to visit the doctor. Sometimes the nature of the cold is so severe that it can cause vomiting, muscle pain around the back, fainting, or heart palpitations.
Here are some simple and easy ways to stay away from cough:
- Limit intake of oily food.
- Avoid overeating at night.
- Avoid too much intake of caffeinated beverages.
- Avoid over-exerting yourself.
- Limit your intake of cold foods.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes.