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Persistent Dry Cough

Persistent Dry Cough

Cough is a commonplace disorder and a common symptom of lung infection. But, if a person is experiencing persistent dry cough and finding no relief with common treatments, it is important to get oneself checked. This way one can treat the underlying cause of the cough, rather than the cough itself.
Pragya T
Last Updated: May 30, 2018
Coughing is a protective reflex, which helps to clear the airways of any irritants, mucus, or foreign bodies.
Persistently occurring dry cough can be a very annoying condition, as it prevents you from concentrating on your daily chores and hinders your sleep. Also, coughing continuously in an unexpected place like a movie theater can be quite embarrassing.

Dry cough which is persistent usually follows after a cold or is caused due to allergies, but sometimes it can be a symptom pointing to a serious condition.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.


Post-viral Cough: Infections like common cold and flu are common causes of persistent cough in children and adults. However, this kind of cough goes away on its own after some weeks. Also, this cough can be quite difficult to treat. One of the reasons behind this condition is that the cough stimulating points become sensitive and continue to be stimulated even after the infection has passed away.

Habit/Psychogenic Cough: This dry cough is observed mostly in children and occurs after a viral infection. The coughing can be loud. Coughing is observed during the daytime, but its intensity reduces when the person is sleeping.

Allergies: Allergies due to dust, pollens or grain can also trigger persistent dry coughing. Hence, people who have allergic cough should avoid these irritants.

Smoking: This is one of the most common causes of chronic dry cough. Hence, people suffering from dry cough should quit smoking. 'Smokers cough' can be either dry or chesty cough.

Chronic Bronchitis: When the bronchial tubes remain inflamed for a long-time, then it can lead to cough with or without mucus. Other symptoms include congestion, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and fatigue.

Asthma: Chronic cough associated with asthma mostly occurs during the night. This kind of cough is observed among people who are developing asthma or patients who have poorly controlled asthma. Asthma-related cough can get worse when one is exposed to dry air, cold air, certain smells, or chemical fumes.

Acid Reflux: In this condition there is a backward flow of stomach acid towards the esophagus. This leads to spasm of the airways which triggers dry persistent cough.

Post-nasal Drip: Coughing can be caused due to post-nasal drip or sinusitis. Extra production of mucus tends to drip down the back of the throat which causes coughing. Even though you feel the mucus dripping down your throat, this kind of cough doesn't produce any phlegm.

Whooping Cough: Dry cough, mild fever, runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes are common symptoms of whooping cough. However after a week or two of the infection, the symptoms become worse and uncontrollable coughing attacks occur.

Laryngitis: Laryngitis, which is the inflammation in throat, is another cause for dry persistent cough. Apart from the cough, it can also lead to weak voice or hoarse voice, sore throat, scratchy-itchy sensation in the throat, and dry throat.

Drugs: Drugs like ACE inhibitors, which are used to treat disorders like hypertension, are also responsible for dry cough. Ensure, you inform your doctor about your medications when seeking treatment for the cough.

Home Remedies

It is important to treat the underlying cause in case of severe persistent dry cough. However, you can first try out some remedies and lifestyle changes.

Salt-water Gargling: The best natural remedy to treat any throat infection is salt-water gargling. To try this remedy, boil 2 glasses of water with 2 tablespoons of common table salt, and wait till the solution gets lukewarm before gargling. Repeating this remedy at least 3 times a day is recommended, though you can use this remedy as many times as required.

Myrrh Remedy: Another gargling remedy is using Myrrh. Myrrh is anti-microbial and helps greatly to soothe the aching muscles, it is an expectorant and provides good relief. Add ½ teaspoon of Myrrh to 2 cups of lukewarm water, gargle with this solution and then swallow it. Use this remedy 3-4 times a day.

Honey and Pepper: Honey is known for its antibiotic properties. Honey and pepper together make an excellent remedy. In a bowl take a tablespoon of honey and a pinch of pepper, mix it well. Then lick this mix slowly. Do this every night after dinner. This remedy greatly helps to subside the dry cough problem.

Vitamin C: Load yourself with vitamin C, as it helps in fighting infection by improving the body's immunity. You can take supplements or eat natural foodstuffs like papaya, oranges, and lemons which are rich in vitamin C.

Drink Plenty of Water: If you are experiencing dry cough due to dehydration, then you need to drink plenty of water to keep your throat moist. On an average, an individual should drink around 2 liters of water everyday.

Humidifier: In case you are experiencing dry cough due to the dry air in the house, consider installing a humidifier. Make sure you use distilled water for the humidifier and keep it free of any dust. Installing a humidifier will provide constant moist air, which will help you get relief from dry cough.

Steam Therapy: To keep your nose and throat moist you can also try steam inhalation. For this remedy fill a pot ⅓ with water and cover it with a lid. Let the water boil for few minutes. Then take the pot off the stove, cover your head with a towel, and inhale the steam through your mouth.

Anti-allergy Medications: If you have an allergic reaction to something which is giving you the cough, then avoid coming in contact with the allergen. Also, to get relief from allergic coughing consider taking an antihistamine. You can find these medications over-the-counter.

OTC Cough Syrups: You can buy a dry cough syrup over-the-counter. This will provide you symptomatic relief. Make sure you buy a cough syrup for dry cough and not chest cough.

Eat Right: Avoid eating spicy foods and eat more alkaline foods. Eat small but frequent meals. Eating a balanced diet will improve your immunity and reduce the severity of the dry cough induced by acid reflux.

Diagnosis & Medical Treatment

Seeking medical attention when suffering from persistent and chronic cough should be given top priority, as a persistent and prevalent dry cough can be sign of a serious health disorder. Initial investigations involve chest X-rays and a detailed discussion of the patient's history on upper respiratory tract disorders. The doctor might also directly check the nasal passages and throat together, and a CT scan can also be performed.

After the initial tests the doctor might prescribe you a specific dry cough treatment and ask you to report back to him/her after few weeks. If the treatment fails, then certain other tests and examinations will be suggested for further investigation. In many cases, it is difficult to figure out the cause behind chronic cough. However, work with a good doctor or a chest specialist to find out the underlying cause.

So, it is important that you seek medical attention, if you are showing chronic dry cough symptoms. However, if your condition is not severe then try some home remedies first. In case the remedies don't have any effect within 10 days, seek medical help.