What’s a Dry Cough?

COVID-19 Dry Cough

By now you’ve probably heard that one of the symptoms of COVID-19 is a dry cough, but you may not know exactly what that means and how a dry cough differs from other coughs. A dry cough is one that doesn’t produce any mucus or phlegm. It may feel like you have a tickle in your throat that triggers your cough reflex, which gives you dry, hacking coughs. A dry cough happens because there’s inflammation or irritation in your respiratory tract, but there’s no excess mucus to cough up. 

In addition to COVID-19, dry coughs are often caused by upper respiratory infections, such as the cold or flu. It’s common for dry coughs to last several weeks after a cold or flu. Other causes of a dry cough include:

  • Laryngitis
  • Sore throat
  • Croup
  • Tonsillitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Medications, especially ACE inhibitors
  • Exposure to irritants, like pollution, dust, or smoke

A dry cough also sounds different from a wet cough. It typically has a hoarse, barking sound. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that two-thirds of COVID-19 patients had a dry cough.

What’s a Wet Cough?

Unlike a dry cough, a wet cough is productive, meaning that it typically brings up mucus or phlegm. Wet coughs are typically caused by a cold or flu and may be accompanied by other symptoms like a runny nose, postnasal drip, or fatigue. These coughs sound wet because your body is pushing mucus out of your respiratory system. Conditions that cause a wet cough include:

  • Cold or flu
  • Pneumonia
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Asthma

What Should I Do If I Have a Dry Cough?

A dry cough can be a symptom of many of the conditions described above, but if your dry cough is also accompanied by fever, fatigue, and shortness of breath, you may have COVID-19 and should contact your doctor. 

More Questions About COVID-19?

If you have more questions or concerns about COVID-19, go to BaptistHealth.com or visit other reputable sites, such as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


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