A cough is mainly to clear the air way from irritants and is a symptom, not a disease by itself. It can be broadly divided into 2 categories ---dry cough (non-productive) and chesty (productive) cough. There is production of phlegm or mucus in productive cough.
Inflammation of the throat and the upper respiratory tract results in dry cough. The cough starts due to an uncomfortable irritating or ticklish feeling in the throat.
Causes of Dry Cough
The common causes of dry cough are smoking, allergies and asthma. It can also occur when irritants like smoke, dust or chemical fumes enter the respiratory tract and after infections like flu, cold or sinus infections.
1. Infectious Causes
Viral and bacterial infections can have dry cough as a symptom. Some of them are:
- Viral infection of respiratory tract or common cold
- Pertussis or whooping cough
- A type of bacterial pneumonia or legionnaires' disease
2. Respiratory and Digestive System
Some ailments of the digestive system as well as respiratory system can also cause cough:
- Bronchospasm or airway irritation, airway obstruction caused by foreign body
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), emphysema and chronic bronchitis
- Pleurisy (Lining of the lungs and chest gets inflamed)
- Collapsed lungs (Pneumothorax)
- GERD – Gastroesophagealreflux disease
Side effects of some medicines can also results in cough. For example, ACE inhibitors used for hypertension like Captopril
Some other conditions which may cause dry cough are:
- Congestive heart failure
- Lung cancer, tumor of the larynx
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
How to Deal with Dry Cough
A lot of home remedies have been suggested to get relief from cough. They are especially beneficial when cough affects badly through the night. Some of the home remedies are given below:
- Warm Liquids: Warm liquids like water, soup or herbal tea soothe the inflammation in the throat and relieve the tendency of coughing. They can be taken throughout the day in small quantities.
- Gargles: Gargling is known to relieve soreness in the throat. Warm water and salt gargles reduce the symptoms by draining excess fluid from the affected area. It also helps in removing the irritants and thins down the mucus in the throat.
- Throat Lozenges: Throat lozenges contain substances which provide relief. They contain cough suppressant like dextromethorphan and anesthetic like benzocaine. Other ingredients are usually honey, menthol, peppermint and eucalyptus oil.
- Turmeric Milk: Turmeric milk is very traditional and popular remedy for cough. Mixing half teaspoon of turmeric in one glass of warm milk provides relief for cough. The anti-bacterial properties of turmeric will work effectively on the throat.
- Honey Mixture: It soothes the lining of the throat and reduces cough. Honey can be had in various ways--- in combination with turmeric, honey and grape juice together, warm milk with honey before going to bedand warm water with honey and lemon juice which can be taken 3 times a day.
- Ginger: Ginger promotes salivation and mucus secretion and helps to relieve cough symptoms.A mixture of ginger juice, honey, turmeric and black pepper powder provides relief from congestion and reduces cough.
- Humidifiers: Humidifiers are beneficial to provide relieve from dry cough, especially in a dry room. However,it’s very critical to ensure that the humidifier is clean, as bacteria and fungus can circulate in the room from a dirty humidifier.
- Steamy Showers: A warm, steamy shower can help in relieving dry cough which is caused by cold, flu, asthma and allergies. It also helps in getting rid of nose blockage.
- Vitamin C Tablets and Cod Liver Oil: Cod Liver oil is rich in Vitamin E, and when taken along with vitamin C, it can help to fight the bacteria or virus which has caused the cough. They also help to enhance immunity.
- Avoid Irritants in the Air: Smoking, perfumes and air fresheners release particles in the air which can be irritants to the respiratory tract. They cause irritation in the sinus and can lead to chronic cough. Avoiding the use of such products and quitting smoking are very important.
- Elevate Head While Sleep: Mucus from the nose can drip in the throat, especially when you are in sleeping position. This mucus can results in cough. When the head is slightly elevated with the help of pillows or cushions, the drainage does not affect the throat and reduces coughing during night.
More information of natural home remedies for dry cough in the video below:
Some of the different types of medicines and their way of work are given below:
- Cough Suppressant or Antitussives like dextromethorphan or pholcodine. They reduce the cough reflex.
- Expectorant likeguaifenesin or ipecacuanha. This kind of medicines can generate more mucus in the lungs, so it is easier to expel via coughing.
- Antihistamine like brompheniramine, chlorphenamine, diphenhydramine, doxylamine, promethazine, or triprolidine. These medicines reduce chest congestion and decrease the quantity of lung secretion.
- Decongestant like ephedrine, oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine,or xylometazoline. They reduce the congestion in the lungs by constricting the blood vessels of the nose and lungs.
When to See a Doctor
When you have been suffering from cough for a long period of time, or it keeps reoccurring, or if you cannot figure out any cause for the cough, you should contact your doctor and get it checked.