How to Get Rid of Dry Cough

Janis

By Janis | Updated January 8, 2024

Having a dry cough can be uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. Dry coughs typically involve persistent, non-productive coughing that does not bring up mucus or phlegm. 

The cough reflex can be triggered by various factors, such as allergies, irritants, or an underlying health issue. In order to effectively get rid of a dry cough, it’s crucial to understand its symptoms and causes. 

By identifying the root cause of your cough, you can then explore various medical treatments and home remedies designed to provide relief and put an end to the constant coughing.

Dry Cough or Productive Cough?

Dry cough and productive cough are two distinct types of cough, each characterized by its unique characteristics and underlying causes.

Dry Cough

A dry cough, also known as a non-productive cough, is typically characterized by the absence of mucus or phlegm production.

It is often described as a hacking or tickling sensation in the throat and triggering the cough reflex.

Productive Cough

A productive cough, on the other hand, is associated with the production of mucus or phlegm.

It serves the purpose of removing excessive mucus, foreign particles, or pathogens from the respiratory system.

Usual Causes of Dry Cough

From environmental factors to underlying medical conditions, understanding the root causes of dry cough can aid in effective treatment and prevention.

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by the inflammation and narrowing of the airways. This inflammation can trigger spasms in the bronchial tubes, leading to episodes of dry coughing.

The body’s response to this inflammation often involves producing excess mucus. However, instead of a productive cough, asthma often results in a persistent dry cough due to the body trying to improve the respiratory condition despite thickened mucus and tightened airways.

Irritation

A dry cough can be triggered by various irritants that provoke the body’s protective reflexes. When you inhale or come into contact with irritants like smoke, dust, or strong odors, your airways can become irritated.

In response to this irritation, the body initiates a dry cough to remove these substances from your respiratory system.

Allergies

Allergens, such as pollen, pet dander, or certain foods, can also lead to a dry cough in sensitive individuals.

When your immune system recognizes these allergens as threats, it releases chemicals that cause inflammation in your airways. This inflammation can trigger a dry, persistent cough.

Infections

Infections, especially respiratory ones, often result from viruses or bacteria invading the body. These pathogens can irritate and inflame the respiratory tract, prompting an initial dry, hacking cough as the body attempts to remove the invaders.

As the infection progresses, mucus production can increase, potentially changing the dry cough to a productive one. However, in the early stages or with certain infections, a persistent dry cough might dominate the symptoms.

Smoking

Smoking introduces a multitude of harmful chemicals into the respiratory system. These irritants damage and inflame the airways and lungs, leading to a persistent “smoker’s cough” that is often dry and hacking.

Over time, the body’s natural defense mechanisms, including tiny hair-like structures called cilia, become impaired. This reduces the ability to clear mucus and debris, exacerbating the dry cough.

Treating Dry Cough at Home

A dry cough can be discomforting, but a range of home remedies and natural treatments can soothe the throat, reduce inflammation, and address the root causes of the symptoms.

Saltwater Gargle

Gargling with warm salt water is a simple yet effective way to relieve a dry cough. 

It helps soothe the throat, reduce inflammation, and dislodge irritants.

Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, gargle for 15-30 seconds, and then spit it out. Repeat several times a day to ease your cough.

Rest and Sleep

Adequate rest and sleep are crucial for your body’s natural healing processes.

When you are well-rested, your immune system functions better, and your body can recover from cough-inducing irritants or infections more effectively.

Balanced Food Choices

A balanced diet ensures optimal intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that bolster the immune system. A strong immune response can prevent and combat respiratory infections, which reduces the occurrence of symptoms like dry cough.

Incorporate fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your meals to maintain good health.

Avoiding Irritants in the Environment

Preventing exposure to irritants in your environment is a crucial home remedy to manage a dry cough.

Identify and minimize contact with irritants like tobacco smoke, air pollution, and strong odors, as these can exacerbate your symptoms.

Hot Beverages and Liquids

Hot liquids, such as herbal teas, soups, and broths, provide immediate relief by soothing and warming the throat, alleviating irritation that can trigger dry coughing episodes. 

The warmth helps in relaxing the airway muscles, making breathing easier. Herbal remedies may help reduce irritation and promote mucus production, providing relief from a dry cough.

Ginger Tea

Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. You can prepare ginger tea by boiling fresh ginger slices or using ginger powder.

This warm, soothing beverage can help relieve throat irritation and reduce the urge to cough. Adding honey or lemon can enhance its taste and effectiveness as a home remedy for dry cough.

Honey

Honey is a well-known home remedy for dry cough due to its soothing properties. It can help alleviate throat irritation and reduce the urge to cough.

You can take a spoonful of honey or mix it with warm water or herbal tea. The natural sweetness and antimicrobial qualities can ease your discomfort and provide relief.

Bromelain from Pineapples

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce throat irritation. Consuming fresh pineapple or bromelain supplements may be beneficial in easing a dry cough.

However, consult a healthcare professional before using supplements to ensure they are suitable for your condition.

Probiotics

Probiotics play a role in strengthening the immune system. A robust immune response can effectively combat respiratory infections, a common cause of dry cough.

Some research also suggests that certain probiotic strains can reduce the severity and duration of respiratory symptoms by modulating the body’s inflammatory responses, thus providing relief from persistent coughing.

Inhaling Steam

Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water can moisturize and soothe your irritated airways, helping to alleviate a dry cough. 

Cover your head with a towel and lean over the steaming water for about 10-15 minutes for best results. Adding a few drops of essential oils like eucalyptus or peppermint can enhance the effectiveness of steam inhalation.

Use of Humidifiers

Humidifiers work by adding moisture to the air, combating the dryness that can irritate the throat and respiratory tract. A moist environment can provide relief by soothing inflamed tissues and reducing the severity of a dry cough.

Additionally, increased humidity can loosen mucus, making it easier to expel and alleviate the persistent sensation that prompts coughing.

Medications for Dry Cough

For persistent dry coughs not alleviated by home remedies, medical interventions offer targeted relief.

Menthol Cough Drops and Lozenges

Cough drops and lozenges can help soothe a sore throat and suppress coughing by providing a cooling sensation.

Choose cough drops containing menthol for the best effect.

Decongestants for Relief

Decongestants can provide relief from a dry cough by reducing inflammation and pressure in your nasal passages.

Over-the-counter options like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine may help. Always follow the recommended dosage on the product label.

Cough Suppressants and Expectorants

Cough suppressants like dextromethorphan can alleviate your dry cough by suppressing the cough reflex. 

Expectorants like guaifenesin may help thin mucus, making it easier to expel phlegm from your body.

Be sure to choose the right medication, as some may not be suitable if you have a fever or heartburn.

Doctor Prescribed Medications

Certain conditions may require prescription medications to treat your dry cough. For example, if your cough is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor.

Additionally, you may be prescribed inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators for conditions like asthma or allergies. Always take these medications as instructed by your healthcare professional.

Preventing Dry Cough

To help prevent dry cough from reoccurring, you need to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, such as:

Getting Proper Sleep and Rest

Maintain a healthy immune system through proper sleep and rest.

Ensure you and your children get an adequate amount of quality sleep each night, as it strengthens the body’s defense against illnesses that could cause a cough.

Drinking More Fluids

Staying hydrated helps maintain the mucosal lining in the throat and respiratory tract.

Adequate hydration prevents this lining from becoming too dry, reducing the irritation that can trigger coughing episodes.

Eating a Healthy Diet

Eating a balanced, nutritious diet plays a vital role in preventing the recurrence of dry cough.

A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants supports a strong immune system, making your body better equipped to fend off infections that can trigger coughing.

Reducing Irritants and Cleaning

To prevent the recurrence of a dry cough, prioritize a clean living environment. Regularly dust and vacuum, and use air purifiers to minimize airborne irritants. 

Additionally, avoid exposure to smoke and strong odors, as these can trigger and exacerbate dry cough symptoms.

Exercising Regularly

Regular physical activity is beneficial in preventing recurrent dry cough by enhancing your overall lung function and respiratory health. 

It also helps reduce your vulnerability to respiratory infections by boosting your immune system.

Getting Regular Check-Ups

Regular or annual medical check-ups allow early detection of potential respiratory issues or underlying conditions that may lead to dry cough. Timely intervention can prevent the progression of these conditions, reducing the likelihood of recurrent symptoms.  

Regular consultations also provide an opportunity for healthcare professionals to offer personalized advice on lifestyle and preventive measures, monitor progress and follow-up, ensure optimal respiratory health, and minimize the risk of dry cough recurrence.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some home remedies for persistent dry cough?

Some effective home remedies for dry cough include drinking plenty of water, using a humidifier, having honey or ginger tea, gargling with warm salt water, and steam inhalation.

However, it’s essential to consult a doctor if your cough persists.

What is the best way to stop a dry cough at night?

To alleviate dry cough at night, try using a humidifier, drinking a warm beverage, and having honey before bedtime.

It also helps to elevate your head with pillows, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and keep your bedroom allergen-free.

What are common triggers for a dry cough?

Common triggers for a dry cough may include allergies and irritants in the environment, like dust, smoke, or pollution.

Medical conditions such as respiratory infections and conditions like asthma or bronchitis may trigger a dry cough reaction.

How long does a typical dry cough last?

A dry cough can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on its cause. If caused by a common cold, it generally lasts 1-2 weeks.

However, if your cough persists for more than three (3) weeks or worsens, consult a healthcare professional.

Why can’t I stop coughing?

Constant dry coughing can persist due to various factors. Medical conditions such as asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or respiratory infections may trigger chronic coughing.

Allergies and environmental irritants can be the culprits as well. Additionally, postnasal drip, where excess mucus drips down the back of your throat, can irritate your airways, causing relentless coughing.

Remember that the issue will persist as long as an irritant is present.