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General Practice 2023

Persistent dry cough: 6 causes and what to do to treat

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Persistent dry cough: 6 causes and what to do to treat
Persistent dry cough: 6 causes and what to do to treat

Dry cough is usually caused by an irritation of the respiratory system, which can happen from exposure to cigarette smoke, but also from pollution. However, when a dry cough is very persistent, it is also often caused by a respiratory allergy, especially if it occurs at more specific times of the year (such as spring or autumn).

Still, there are other causes that can cause a dry cough, mainly respiratory problems, such as asthma, or the existence of some heart disease.

For this reason, whenever dry cough persists for more than 1 week, gets worse quickly or is accompanied by other signs such as thick phlegm, presence of blood, fever or difficulty breathing, it is very important to go to the hospital or consult a pulmonologist to identify the cause and initiate the most appropriate treatment.


The most common causes of dry cough are:

1. Respiratory allergy

Allergy to dust, pet hair or flower pollen causes throat irritation, causing coughing until the cause of the respiratory allergy is identified and eliminated. This type of cough is more common in spring or autumn.

What to do: It is essential to identify the cause of the allergy, so that it is possible to avoid new allergic crises. In addition, antihistamines can be used to relieve symptoms.

2. Cigarettes and pollution

Cigarette use or exposure to smoke or any type of environmental pollution can cause throat irritation and may also stimulate the cough reflex, which tends to be dry and quite persistent.

What to do: In this case, it is recommended to avoid this type of exposure, as well as avoid smoking. In this way, it is possible to avoid throat irritation, coughing and the development of other he alth problems resulting from frequent and/or prolonged exposure to smoke or pollution.

3. Asthma

Asthma is a respiratory problem that causes chronic inflammation of the lungs, which, in addition to a dry cough, results in symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing and a feeling of pressure in the chest.

What to do: It is important to follow the treatment indicated by the doctor, which involves the use of inhaled medicines that promote bronchial dilation, facilitating breathing and relieving symptoms. In addition, it is important to identify the factor responsible for triggering the asthma attack, as this way it is possible to avoid new attacks. See more details about asthma treatment.

4. Gastroesophageal reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease can also cause a dry cough after eating spicy or highly acidic foods, due to stomach acid rising up into the esophagus. In addition to coughing, other symptoms can include a lump in the throat, heartburn, and poor digestion. Learn more about gastroesophageal reflux.

What to do: To relieve coughing and other symptoms of reflux, it is important to have a light diet and low in fatty foods, in addition to being recommended by the doctor the use of medications that reduce or neutralize the amount of acid in the stomach.

5. Heart problems

Some heart disorders, especially heart failure, can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs, which makes the person feel like coughing frequently. In addition to coughing, there may be chest pain, shortness of breath at rest, swelling in the leg and feet, and frequent tiredness. Know how to recognize other symptoms of heart problems.

What to do: In these cases, it is important that the cardiologist is consulted so that tests are carried out to identify the cause of the dry cough and, thus, start the treatment more suitable not only to relieve cough, but also to treat heart disorder.

6. COVID-19

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that can also cause a dry and persistent cough, in addition to difficulty breathing, runny or stuffy nose, fever above 38ÂșC and general tiredness due to lung involvement. Take our symptom test to find out your risk of having COVID-19.

What to do: In case of suspicion of COVID-19, it is important to perform the rapid test and/or the PCR test for COVID-19 to confirm the infection and stay in isolation to prevent transmission to others. In addition, it is important to rest and have a lighter diet. In cases where there is difficulty breathing, it is important to go to the hospital for a chest X-ray and to assess the need for hospitalization. Check out more details about the treatment for COVID-19.

How to treat persistent dry cough

Treatment for persistent dry cough should be directed at solving its cause. In the case of allergic dry cough, in addition to the use of medication prescribed by the doctor, it is important to:

  • Drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day, because water helps keep the airways hydrated and reduces throat irritation;
  • Take 1 tablespoon of carrot or oregano syrup about 3 times a day. These syrups have antitussive properties, reducing coughing spells. See how to make these syrups.
  • Drink 1 cup of mint tea, about 3 times a day. Mint has a tranquilizing, antitussive, mucolytic, expectorant and decongestant action, helping to relieve coughing. To make the tea, just add 1 teaspoon of dried or fresh mint leaves in a cup of boiling water and let it rest for 5 minutes, strain and drink afterwards;
  • Take medicine for persistent dry cough under medical supervision, such as Vibral, Notuss, Antuss or Hytos Plus, for example;
  • Avoid dust indoors, as contact with animals and cigarette smoke can cause persistent dry cough.

Cases of persistent dry cough for more than 1 week deserve more attention, especially if the individual has asthma, bronchitis, rhinitis or any other chronic respiratory disease. It can mean a worsening of the condition and the need to take antihistamines or corticosteroids.

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