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:
- Sore throat
- 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
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Acute bronchitis
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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