Know Dry Cough Meaning, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Know Dry Cough Meaning, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

In dry cough, also known as non-productive cough, the airways do not produce mucus or phlegm. How to treat it?

A brief description

In dry cough, also known as non-productive cough, the airways do not produce mucus or phlegm. How to treat it?


A dry cough in medical terms is known as non-productive cough. This means a person coughs without the help of phlegm or mucus produced by the respiratory system.

Well, this type of cough is usually accompanied by several other health complaints.

For example, itching and pain in the throat due to irritation of the airways. Dry coughs can be caused by many things, from asthma to infections to environmental pollution.

Dry Cough

Medical specialist Internal Medicine Specialist, Pulmonary Specialist
Symptom Cough without mucus or phlegm
risk factor Air pollution, allergens, stomach acid, infections
How to diagnose History, physical examination, supporting examination, chest x-ray
Treatment According to the main cause
Drug Antitussive, main therapy based on the underlying cause
Complications Chronic cough, shortness of breath
When to see a doctor? The cough does not go away, accompanied by shortness of breath


There are various conditions that can cause a dry cough, namely:

  • Smoke

Of all the possible causes, smoking is one that most often triggers a dry cough.

The various chemicals present in cigarette smoke irritate the airways and slowly damage them.

In the long term, this irritation of the airways can lead to a variety of more severe lung diseases. Starting from bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia, to lung cancer.

  • Asthma

A dry cough in asthma is caused by a sudden narrowing of the airways.

This narrowing is generally triggered by specific things, such as dust, cold temperatures, and infection.

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Apart from asthma and smoking, backflow of stomach acid into the throat or called GERD can also be a cause of dry cough.

This backflow of stomach acid will irritate the throat and trigger a cough reflex.

  • Postnasal Drip

Coughing in post-nasal drip occurs due to excessive mucus production in the throat.

The triggers can vary, ranging from allergies, flu, and also exposure to dust.

  • Virus Infection

Dry cough can also occur as a result of a viral infection. Although the infection will generally get better in 1-2 weeks, a cough that appears can last longer.

The cough that occurs after infection with this virus is caused by irritation after infection. Such a cough can last 1-2 months.

The cough will slowly improve as the airways recover from the irritation.

To help recovery, anti-irritating lozenges and drinking warm water can be a solution.

  • Air pollution

Pollutants in the air, such as dust, dirt, and chemicals that are inhaled into the digestive tract, can be triggers for dry coughs.

Not only that, in some people, humidity that is too dry can also be the cause of this cough.

To overcome this, the use of a humidifier can be an alternative way out.

Apart from these conditions, dry cough can also be caused by various other factors.

For example, due to the use of antihypertensive drugs belonging to the ACE inhibitor group, pertussis, lung damage, lung cancer, and heart failure.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for dry cough are strongly influenced by the main cause of these symptoms.

If it is caused by asthma, the risk factors are allergens that trigger allergic reactions and hypersensitivity in a person.

If it is caused by an infection, it can be caused by a decreased immune system.

In addition, air pollution around can also exacerbate the condition of the dry cough you are experiencing.


The dominant symptom of a dry cough is the absence of mucus in the airways that comes out when someone coughs.

The cough that is experienced is also generally very disturbing to activities and affects the quality of sleep.

Other characteristics that are also experienced in dry cough can vary, depending on the underlying disease or condition. These symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • There is blood coming out when coughing
  • Hard to breathe
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Chest pain
  • Night sweats
  • Wheezing

The symptoms that arise besides dry cough, are greatly influenced by the cause.

Apart from a dry cough, other symptoms that will be experienced in asthma are:

  • Wheezing
  • Hard to breathe
  • Difficulty breathing from coughing or wheezing
  • Whistle-like sound when exhaling

Meanwhile, in GERD, other symptoms that are generally also experienced are:

  • Burning feeling in the chest
  • Chest pain
  • A sensation of a resistance in the throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing

In postnasal drip, it is generally accompanied by liquid mucus and easily enters the throat. Apart from a dry cough, other symptoms that can also be found in postnasal drip are:

  • Sore throat
  • A sensation of a blockage in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Night cough
  • Have a cold


The diagnosis of dry cough is determined on the basis of medical interviews, as well as physical and supporting examinations.

  • During the medical interview, a cough without phlegm was found. Generally, this condition greatly interferes with activities and reduces optimal sleep at night
  • On physical examination, the clinical findings may vary. In asthma, for example, you can find additional breath sounds in the form of wheezing when you exhale
  • Several investigations are needed to determine the underlying cause of dry cough. Examinations that can be done are usually:
  • Chest X-ray to see the condition of the lungs
  • Blood tests to assess the presence or absence of infection
  • CT scan to see a detailed picture of the tissue in the lung
  • Swab or throat swab, which is taking part of the throat tissue using a cotton swab for later examination
  • Sputum analysis
  • Spirometry using a tool that will assess how optimal a person’s breathing is when he exhales forcefully


Examination of dry cough can be done by a specialist in internal medicine. You can also be treated by a pulmonary specialist if a possible lung problem is suspected.

Meanwhile, the treatment of dry cough is based on the cause of this condition. For example, if your cough is caused by smoking, quitting this habit may be key to treating a dry cough.

In the case of GERD, a combination of lifestyle changes, the application of a regular diet and drugs to control stomach acid can generally improve the complaints of dry cough that are experienced.

However, there are several practical ways to deal with a dry cough.

For example, with anti-irritant lozenges, cough suppressants containing antitussives, such as dextromethorphan or drinking warm water with pure honey added.


Prevention efforts are also greatly influenced by the main causes of dry cough experienced.

For example, avoiding smoking habits and exposure to cigarette smoke from all around, wearing a mask when in a dusty environment, and avoiding triggers that can cause asthma.

If it is caused by asthma, you should avoid allergens that can trigger asthma attacks.

If it is caused by GERD, avoid eating too late, sour and spicy foods which can trigger an increase in stomach acid production.


In addition to the underlying disease that is getting worse, untreated dry cough can affect the patient’s psychological condition and quality of life.

People who experience persistent coughs can experience depression, frustration, and fatigue due to suboptimal sleep.

From a physical perspective, a prolonged dry cough can also cause urinary incontinence or unconscious urination, especially in the elderly.

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