Dry Cough

Coughing is a way of getting rid of infections, it can be productive or non-productive (dry cough).

A productive cough brings up mucus or phlegm, unlike the non-productive ones.

While occasional coughing may be okay, a persistent dry cough can be a thing of concern.

In this article, you will learn the causes of dry coughs, their home remedies, and when to see a doctor.

Causes of persistent dry cough

Many conditions can lead to a persistent dry cough, some may be mild while others may be chronic. They include:

1. Viral infections.

Virus is the major cause of common colds and flu, they cause up to 95%.

Although their symptoms heal within one or two weeks, they can cause post-viral dry coughs.

Post-viral-cough is a cough that arises because of an infection. And may linger for about 2 months.

If you have such a cough, use throat lozenges, hot fluids, and other home remedies to soothe it.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus is a viral disease, it has no cure. If you notice any of the following symptoms, isolate yourself and call 911.

Their symptoms include

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Muscle pain
  • Tiredness
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Breathing difficulty (2).

3. Postnasal drip

This is the dripping of mucus at the back of your throat. When you have a cold or allergies, your nasal membrane produces more mucus. This mucus drops at the back of your throat, causing a non-productive cough.

Other symptoms of a post-nasal drip are

You can ease post-nasal drip by taking hot fluids and the use of a nasal spray.

4. Cough-variant asthma (CVA).

CVA is asthma known with a dry cough; it shares no other symptoms with classic asthma.

Certain drugs, irritants, indoor and outdoor allergens cause it.

While CVA doesn’t share similar symptoms to classic asthma other than a cough, it affects the body in similar ways.

They increase inflammation and sensitivity of the airways like classic asthma, and this results in breathing difficulty.

Late treatment of these symptoms can cause 30 to 40% of adults, progress to classic cancer.


Treatment of CVA is the same as classic asthma and should be early enough to avoid complications.

we may use an inhaler such as Proventil or Ventolin. But if it has progressed to classic asthma, Azmacort, Flovent, or Pulmicort can serve depending on the choice of your doctor.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD is a digestive disorder that causes stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. The flow back irritates the esophagus, leading to a cough reflex.

We can treat GERD with OTC drugs such as omeprazole, lansoprazole, iberogast, and others.

You can also reduce GERD by quitting triggers such as spicy foods, smoking, and irregular eating habits.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough is a respiratory tract infection caused by Bordetella pertussis. It is contagious and can spread through the air.

Whooping cough can cause chronic hacking coughs, and high-pitched whoop sounds when you breathe.

It used to be common among children when there was no vaccine for its prevention. However, it is now preventable.

Environmental pollutants

There are so many things that can irritate your lungs and make you cough, they include pollen grains, smoke, dust particles, pollutants, molds, and others.

Dry air can also cause a dry cough. Try avoiding the cause by quitting smoking, covering yourself while in a dusty or polluted environment, and running a humidifier when your environment is dry.

Mediastinal tumors

A mediastinal tumor is a growth that forms in the (mediastinum), the part of the chest that separates the lungs. It is a rare disease but affects people of all ages.

Many people with mediastinal tumors have no symptoms, they only found out while on a chest x-ray, for other conditions.

The symptoms that occur are mainly because of the pressure from the surrounding structures, such as the heart lining, and the spinal cord. They may include.

  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis).
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Night sweats
  • Stridor (high-pitched and noisy breathing)
  • Wheezing
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Treatment depends on the type and symptoms of the tumor, some may be removed with surgery, others by chemotherapy or radiation.

Interstitial lung disease (fibrosis)

ILD is a group of lung diseases marked by inflammation and scarring, preventing the lungs from getting enough oxygen. The scarring of the lungs is called pulmonary fibrosis.

Symptoms of ILD include

  • Dry hacking cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Lungs bleeding
  • Loss of appetite.

Treatment of ILD depends on the cause and severity. Many don’t have a cure and can only be managed.

Treatment should be based on preventing further lung scarring, and managing symptoms to help you stay healthy.

The treatment options include

  • Use of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Lung transplant
  • Pulmonary rehab.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme-inhibitor (ACEI)

ACE inhibitors are drugs such as enalapril (Vasotec), and lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure.

The ACEI major side effect is a dry cough that occurs in about 20% of people taking the drugs. Changing to another antihypertensive drug remains the way out of the hacking cough.