- What is a dry cough?
- Learn About Cough
- Key Facts
- How a Cough Affects Your Body
- Cough Causes
- Types of Cough
- What is a Dry Cough? Experts Explain the Coronavirus Symptom
- Dry Cough – Persistent Dry Cough – Symptoms, Causes & Complications
- What other symptoms might occur with a dry cough?
- Common symptoms that may occur along with a dry cough
- Other symptoms that may occur along with a dry cough
- Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
- What causes a dry cough?
- Infectious causes of a dry cough
- Other causes of a dry cough
- Medications can cause a dry cough
- Questions for diagnosing the cause of a dry cough
- What are the potential complications of a dry cough?
What is a dry cough?
Ohio resident Amy Driscoll told “Tucker Carlson Tonight” she had tested positive for COVID-19 after experiencing severe symptoms.
Driscoll, 48, said she was at work one day when she experienced chest pain, accompanied by fever and a “very heavy” dry cough.
“It was quite the experience,” Driscoll said. “I wasn't prepared to be sick. When I got sick, I really wasn't thinking about it, and I went from being, you know, doing my everyday life, and, 10 hours later, I was really suffering, struggling to breathe, struggling to take a deep breath.”
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“It was just really quite scary, and un anything I've ever had before,” she explained.
“My heart was racing. When I woke up from having fallen asleep on the couch after I had gotten home from work, my heart was just racing, kind of all over the place, and I just really struggled to get a deep breath in. My chest hurt terribly, and it felt I had a vice grip around my chest. It was really not anything I had ever had before,” Driscoll explained.
What is a dry cough?
According to the WHO, the most common symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough.
A dry cough is a signal of respiratory illness.
“It has a very consistent sound,” Subinoy Das, MD an Ohio-based ear nose and throat physician, and medical director for the US Institute for Advanced Sinus Care & Research, told Health about the barking or hoarse sound of a dry cough.
A person with a dry cough doesn’t bring up phlegm, according to Harvard Medical School and other health websites.
A wet cough produces mucus.
Dry coughs can be a symptom of many sicknesses—not just COVID-19— allergies, asthma, bronchitis, or a typical common cold, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
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A cough you've had for three weeks or less is most ly due to the common cold. Unfortunately, this cough—which is mainly a dry cough, with some clear mucus—can persist for a month or more after the rest of your symptoms are gone.
If you've got a cough (wet or dry) that has lasted eight weeks or longer, you could be suffering from chronic postnasal drip—mucus that accumulates in the sinuses and drips down the back of the throat, creating a tickling sensation that triggers a cough.
Asthma usually shows up as wheezing and shortness of breath. But in people with cough-variant asthma, a dry, persistent cough may be the only sign. It's often worse at night, during or shortly after exercise, when you're breathing cold air or when you're around an allergen, pet dander or pollen.
If your hacking appears only at certain times or places, consider allergies or sensitivity to irritants mold, pollution, or smoke. Think about your meds, too: Up to 20% of people who take ACE inhibitors (for conditions such as high blood pressure) develop a dry cough.
Learn About Cough
A cough is a spontaneous reflex. When things such as mucus, germs or dust irritate your throat and airways, your body automatically responds by coughing. Similar to other reflexes such as sneezing or blinking, coughing helps protect your body.
- Coughing is an important reflex that helps protect your airway and lungs against irritants.
- Coughing can propel air and particles your lungs and throat at speeds close to 50 miles per hour.
- Occasional coughing is normal as it helps clear your throat and airway of germs, mucus and dust.
- A cough that doesn’t go away or comes with other symptoms shortness of breath, mucus production or bloody phlegm could be the sign of a more serious medical problem.
How a Cough Affects Your Body
An occasional cough is a normal healthy function of your body. Your throat and airways are equipped with nerves that sense irritants and seek to dispel them. This response is almost instantaneous and very effective.
Throats and lungs normally produce a small amount of mucus to keep the airway moist and to have a thin covering layer that works as a protective barrier against irritants and germs you may breathe in. Some infrequent coughing helps mobilize mucus and has no damaging effects on your body. Coughing also allows for the rapid removal of any unwelcome particles you accidentally breathe in.
These are common causes of acute cough – lasting less than two months:
- Upper respiratory tract infections: Infections of the nose and throat are the most common cause of coughing related to illness. They are usually associated with fevers, sore throat and runny nose. They are almost always caused by viruses, and include the common cold, viral laryngitis and influenza.
- Hay fever (or allergic rhinitis): A common allergic condition that mimics the symptoms of a common cold. It is usually associated with dry cough, sneezing and runny nose.
- Inhalation of irritants: Acute exposure to some fumes and vapors can cause inflammation of the throat and airway and cause cough.
- Lower respiratory tract infections: These are more serious viral and bacterial infections that usually cause a deep, lingering cough and fever. They can affect the airways (bronchitis) or go further into the lungs (pneumonia).
- Pulmonary embolism: This is a potentially life-threatening condition where a blood clot travels, usually from the legs, to the lungs causing sudden shortness of breath and sometimes a dry cough.
- Lung collapse (or pneumothorax): This is caused by the deflation of the lung. It can be spontaneous or due to chest trauma. Signs of a collapsed lung include sudden chest pain, dry cough and shortness of breath.
- Heart failure: A weak or diseased heart can cause buildup of fluid in the lung, causing cough and worsening shortness of breath.
- Post-nasal drip: This condition shows up as a dry cough caused by the chronic dripping of mucus from the back of the nose to the throat. Usually this occurs after a recent infection or continuous exposure to an allergy trigger.
- Gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD): This digestive disorder occurs when stomach acid frequently backs up into the esophagus, causing heartburn. When the acid rises into the throat it can also cause a dry cough.
Types of Cough
There are many different types of coughs with distinct characteristics that can help your doctor identify what underlying issue may be causing it.
If a cough brings up phlegm or mucus it is called a productive cough and could suggest pneumonia, bronchitis or the flu. The color of the mucus can signal a more serious problem.
You should see a doctor if your cough brings up yellowish-green phlegm or blood. A cough that doesn’t produce mucus is called a dry or nonproductive cough.
Acute cough is the least serious type of cough. It only lasts for three weeks or less and will most ly clear up on its own. This type of cough will not need medical attention.
However, if the cough is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, headache, drowsiness or shortness of breath it should be brought to a doctor’s attention.
Coughs that make certain sounds, whooping, wheezing or barking, may also signal a bigger problem.
Chronic coughs last longer than eight weeks and can be the sign of a more serious or chronic lung disease. Learn more about possible causes.
Next Page: Diagnosing and Treating Cough
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.
Page last updated: March 3, 2020
What is a Dry Cough? Experts Explain the Coronavirus Symptom
You've heard the typical symptoms by now: fever, shortness of breath, dry cough—about 80 percent of those with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), only get those mild signs, according to research. And while one of those symptoms—a cough—may sound pretty easy to diagnose, many are questioning what exactly a dry cough is, and how it's different from other coughs.
Basically, a dry cough is “one where no mucus or phlegm is produced with the cough,” Subinoy Das, MD an Ohio-based ear nose and throat physician, and medical director for the US Institute for Advanced Sinus Care & Research, tells Health. Conversely, a wet cough “is one filled with mucus or phlegm where someone can actually feel the mucus move in their bronchi or throat,” he says, adding that “mucus expectorates or leaves the chest with each [wet] cough.”
RELATED: Can You Get the Coronavirus Twice? The Answer Isn't So Clear-Cut
A dry cough may also sound different than a wet cough. “It has a very consistent sound,” says Dr. Das—often triggered by a tickle in the back of your throat, with a barking or hoarse sound. That's because “the airway is not constantly changing with the cough,” says Dr. Das.
(With a wet cough, mucus builds up, then leaves, constantly changing the airways.) He explains that, while dry coughs don't necessarily hurt, they are “unsatisfying coughs, because no mucus or phlegm is expelled past the vocal cords.
” Still, the coughing can get so hard that the person can possibly injure their ribs or intercostal muscles (the muscles that run between the ribs).
It's important to remember, however, that dry coughs can be a symptom of a variety of other illnesses—not just COVID-19—including, allergies, asthma, bronchitis, or a typical common cold, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. However, Dr. Das explains that if you have any other symptoms related to COVID-19, a fever, unexplained loss of taste or smell, or gastrointestinal issues diarrhea, you should call your doctor to inquire about getting tested for coronavirus.
RELATED: Asymptomatic Carriers May Still Transmit Coronavirus, Says New Research
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests cough medicine, humidifiers, and cough drops to ease the discomfort of a flu-related dry cough, Dr.
Das points out that currently, there are no medically proven ways to reduce a dry cough from COVID-19, but those with symptoms can use the above remedies to help relieve them, as well. Dr.
Das also recommends taking steamy showers, “which helps thin the mucus building up in the nose or nasopharynx that could possibly be worsening a patient’s cough.” And if you do test positive for coronavirus, or if you believe you have it, it's necessary to self-isolate so you don't make those around you ill, as well.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication.
While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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Dry Cough – Persistent Dry Cough – Symptoms, Causes & Complications
A dry cough refers to a cough that does not produce mucus (also known as phlegm or sputum). A cough is your body’s defensive reflex that functions to keep your airways clear of irritating or obstructing substances so you can breathe effectively. Over time, a dry cough can often become a productive cough as the lungs produce more sputum.
A dry cough is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. A dry cough can result from infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, airway obstruction, and other abnormal processes.
You may have a dry, hacking cough after inhaling a mild irritant, such as dust, smoke or powder. A dry cough may also be the result of a disorder, such as an allergy, or an infectious disease, such as viral laryngitis. A dry cough can accompany serious and potentially life-threatening conditions including congestive heart failure and lung cancer.
Depending on the cause, a dry cough can begin suddenly and disappear quickly, such as after inhaling secondhand smoke. An acute dry cough that comes on suddenly and lasts up to two to three weeks is usually associated with a cold; whereas, a chronic dry cough over a long period of time (lasting more than eight weeks) may be caused by smoking or asthma.
A dry cough can be a sign of a serious or life-threatening disorder. If you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or swollen legs or ankles, seek immediate medical care (call 911). If your dry cough is persistent or causes you concern, see your doctor.
What other symptoms might occur with a dry cough?
A dry cough often occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Symptoms including sounds the lungs make while you are breathing, changes in blood pressure, and low blood oxygen levels may only be evident using certain instruments in the doctor’s office or hospital.
Common symptoms that may occur along with a dry cough
Dry cough may occur with other symptoms including:
Other symptoms that may occur along with a dry cough
Dry cough may accompany other less common symptoms including:
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
In some cases, a dry cough may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, are exhibiting any of these life-threatening symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Difficulty speaking
- Frequent urination
- High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Leg or ankle swelling
- Painful dry cough or pain while breathing deeply
- Rapid heartbeat
- Severe pain upon swallowing
What causes a dry cough?
A dry cough has many causes, the most common of which is an upper airway infection that follows a cold. A cold can also lead to a productive cough, which is a cough that produces mucus (phlegm).
A persistent, dry cough could also be due to whooping cough (pertussis) or a sign of a chronic condition, such as emphysema or asthma.
Whooping cough is uncommon in infants due to vaccination, but it is surprisingly common in adults because vaccination becomes less effective over time.
Serious and life-threatening conditions include congestive heart failure and lung cancer. Because there are so many different possibilities, some of which are life threatening, it is important to contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms and answer your questions.
Infectious causes of a dry cough
Dry cough is a sign of various viral and bacterial infections including:
- Common cold (viral respiratory infection)
- Croup (viral illness that is common in young children)
- Legionnaires’ disease (type of bacterial pneumonia)
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
Other causes of a dry cough
A persistent cough can be due to causes related to respiratory and digestive systems including:
- Airway irritation (bronchospasm)
- Aortic aneurysm
- Asthma and allergies
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
- Congestive heart failure
- Foreign body (airway obstruction)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Lung cancer
- Pleurisy (inflammation of the lining around the lungs and chest)
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Tumor of the larynx
Medications can cause a dry cough
Certain medications that can cause a dry cough include ACE inhibitors (including captopril) to control high blood pressure.
Questions for diagnosing the cause of a dry cough
To aid in diagnosing the cause of your cough, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will most ly ask you questions related to your symptoms including:
- How long have you had the cough?
- Are you coughing up anything (including blood)?
- Are you breathing through your mouth (instead of your nose)?
- Is the cough keeping you up at night?
- Do you have a fever?
What are the potential complications of a dry cough?
A dry cough can be a sign of an infectious or inflammatory process, many of which can be easily treated. Your treatment plan may include self-care measures at home, such as moist air and anti-inflammatory medications.
It is important to contact your health care provider when you experience a dry cough without an obvious cause or if your cough is persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern.
Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor can help lower your risk of potential complications including:
- Dehydration if cough occurs with diarrhea or vomiting
- Dehydration due to reduced fluid intake
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fainting spells from acute cough attack