A cough is your body’s way of clearing the respiratory tract when an irritant gets stuck. There are two types of cough one can experience: Dry cough and wet cough. In dry cough there is no phlegm or sputum. In wet cough, one expels a lot of phlegm or mucus. It can be the result of many problems arising out of the lungs (bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma), cough and cold or reflux disease as well. It can be caused by lung cancer too. Smoking, cold foods, deep fries and over-exertion can increase your risk of dry cough.
Sometimes, people with dry cough will feel the presence of a lump in the throat. Others may feel a tickling sensation. It is usually seen in case of allergies, exposure to smoke or other irritants, mild sinusitis and viral infections of the upper respiratory tract, so on and so forth. Coughs triggered by cold or flu can have a duration of 1 week or two and clear up by 3 weeks at the most. They may last for 8 weeks after a viral illness. Whatever the reason be, persisting dry cough can be a nightmare. Dry cough is considered to be chronic when it lasts for 8 weeks in adults and 4 weeks in children. It is acute and short-term if it persists for 2 weeks. However, it is known as prolonged acute cough if there the cough lasts for 2-4 weeks in kids.
TYPES OF DRY COUGH
Dry cough characterises many illnesses starting from hacking cough, whooping cough, so on and so forth.
Hacking cough: Most commonly you see a dry hacking cough in viral infections of the nose and throat. In in this condition, you experience continuous sessions of cough and feel that something is stuck inside the throat. Your doctor may suggest cough syrups after examining the severity of the condition.
Barking cough or croup: You experience this if you are suffering from laryngitis. (Swelling or infection of the larynx). In this condition, When the patient coughs, there is pain in the throat and difficulty in breathing.
Whooping cough: The third type of dry cough would be a whooping cough, caused by bacteria. This is a very uncommon occurrence nowadays because of the presence of vaccine programmes run by the government of India. This condition is usually seen only in children. It is a cough where a person coughs continuously, after which there is a characteristic whoop sound and strong intake of a breath.
CAUSES OF DRY COUGH
Various factors can contribute dry cough including irritants like dust and smoke to ailments like asthma, reflux disease and more. Here is a low-down on the most common culprits behind dry cough.
It is a condition that narrows down your airways by swelling them up. However, coughing isn’t the symptom that you think of first when it comes to asthma, except for one variant of this condition: Cough variant asthma (CVA). It is characterised by dry cough. However, asthma, in general, can manifest through both dry and wet cough, the later being more common.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
This condition gives you what we call a heartburn. However, GERD can make you experience dry cough too. There are times when acid from your stomach flows back to your oesophagus, the tube-like structure that connects your mouth to the stomach. This leads to dry cough.
In this condition, watery mucus from your nose flow through the back of your throat resulting in dry cough at times. However, the cough triggered by postnasal drip can also be wet quite often. In most case, sinus infection or nasal allergy can be the result of postnasal drip.
Viral infection in the upper respiratory tract
Sometimes, you experience long-term cough even after recovering from common cold caused by a viral infection. This cough, which can persist for as long as two months, can be dry and is often the result of irritation in your airways. It takes time to heal. So, you need to be patient with this stubborn cough.
Some unusual causes behind a dry cough could be lung cancer, a collapsed lung or a heart failure.
DIAGNOSIS OF DRY COUGH
Once you visit the doctor’s chamber, he will do a physical examination to figure out the nature of your cough. It will involve listening to your chest sounds to rule out congestion and checking your throat for any infection or inflammation. He may also suggest a few imaging tests to rule out any serious underlying condition.
Imaging tests: Imaging tests like X-ray, CT scan or bronchoscopy to for check infections and the condition of your windpipe and airways.
Spirometry: In this test you will be required to breathe into a plastic device. The aim is to test lung function and detect conditions like asthma.
TREATMENT FOR DRY COUGH
The treatment for dry cough depends on the underlying cause that is triggering it.
Antihistamines: For an allergy-driven cough, your doctor may prescribe anti-histamines Antibiotics: In case of a bacterial infection leading to your cough, he may suggest antibiotics.
Inhalers: When asthma is the reason behind your cough, you may need to inhale corticosteroids or bronchodilators. Corticosteroids work by bringing down swelling and inflammation of your airways while bronchodilators relax the muscles of your respiratory tract and widen them.
Steam inhalation: This can be particularly helpful if the reason behind your dry cough is a sinus infection or an allergic reaction. Steam inhalation moistens the airways and relieves a sore throat.
OTC cough syrups: They soothe your throat and offer symptomatic relief. In fact, they are especially formulated to treat dry cough.