What is a 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.

What Does a Dry Cough Mean?

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. 

What Causes a Dry Cough?

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

What Does a Dry Cough Sound Like?

A dry cough also sounds different from 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.

There are a variety of solutions available at the Baptist Health retail pharmacies. Decongestants, cough suppressants, and cough expectorants, and menthol cough drops can provide relief. Something else to try is to add moisture to the air through a humidifier. Lastly, warm liquids like soup and tea help provide immediate relief for sore and scratchy throats.

If your dry cough is also accompanied by fever, fatigue, and shortness of breath, you may have COVID-19 and should contact your doctor.

Do You Have More Questions About Dry Coughs and COVID-19?

If you have more questions or concerns about dry coughs and 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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