There are many treatments for a dry cough, including home remedies and medications. Common causes of a dry cough include allergies, asthma, infections, and acid reflux. And your treatment often depends on the cause and whether your cough is recurrent or new.
Home remedies and lifestyle
If your dry cough is mild and uncomplicated, without fever, chest pain, or any other symptoms , it may be wise to treat it with a home remedy.
A dry throat can make a cough worse. Remember to drink a soothing liquid such as lemon tea or water.
Inhalation of steam
Steam breathing is a familiar home remedy for most people. The warm steam helps moisturize dry and irritated nasal passages, soothe a sore throat, and reduce the severity of coughs caused by minor infections or allergies.
Certain natural supplements, such as holy basil ( Ocimum tenuiflorum ), can be added to steam to treat coughs caused by colds, flu, bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, and allergies.
Cover your head with a towel when you inhale to absorb more moisture. Do not place your face directly over a pot of boiling water, as this can cause severe burns.
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Health professionals often recommend gargling with salt water to ease a sore throat caused by a cold. The salt water draws moisture out of the painful area to reduce swelling and irritation.
Gargling with salt water three times a day reduced the duration of coughs caused by a cold by 2.4 days and hoarseness by 1.7 days, according to a 2019 randomized controlled trial published in Scientific Reports .
You may develop a cough as a reaction to a food allergy. If you notice that certain foods are causing you to cough, do not eat them. Consider keeping a food diary to see if something you eat is causing you a cough.
Sometimes certain conditions can make you more prone to coughing:
- If you are prone to respiratory allergy symptoms, avoiding certain foods high in histamine can help relieve your symptoms, including coughing. These include alcohol, pickled foods, aged cheese, seafood, smoked meats, chocolate, nuts, and strawberries.
- Acid reflux can also cause a chronic cough. If you have acid reflux, avoid high-fat foods, acidic foods (including tomatoes), chocolate, caffeine, and spicy foods, which can make your symptoms worse.
There are several things you can do at home to prevent other people from causing or making your cough worse.
- Use a cool mist humidifier if your cough is worse in dry weather, especially at night.
- Invest in an air purifier to help remove allergens and irritants from the air, including dust, dander, and pollen. This can be helpful if you have asthma.
- No Smoking. Exposure to cigarette smoke, vaping, and marijuana increases throat irritation.
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments
Over-the-counter medicines can often help relieve a cough, especially if you are sick.
Cough drops are usually enough to make you feel better, especially if you also have a sore throat. You can add a menthol product like Vicks Vapo-Rub to the steam inhalation and this can provide additional relief.
Dextromethorphan is an over-the-counter medicine often used to treat a dry cough.
You can use the generic version and the most commonly used brands include:
Note that many over-the-counter cough medicines are also decongestants, and you may not need this effect if you have a dry cough.
You can call your healthcare provider's office to describe your symptoms and what they recommend, and sometimes you can also get advice from your pharmacist about over-the-counter medications.
Dry cough can be caused by a variety of reasons, including allergies, environmental irritants, infections, and even certain medications ( such as ACE inhibitors ).
Chronic cough can be an early sign of a potentially serious health condition, ranging from sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) to mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Never ignore a persistent dry cough, no matter how mild. Your healthcare provider will diagnose the problem and may prescribe treatment based on the cause of your cough.
- Seasonal Allergies : If you have severe seasonal hay fever , it may help to take oral antihistamines daily to prevent allergies when pollen and mold build up.
- Asthma : If your cough is related to asthma, following prescription asthma medications (including long-acting bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids ) can reduce the frequency of attacks.
- Infection : If you have an infection, such as pneumonia, you may need antibiotic treatment.
- Acid Reflux : Your healthcare provider may prescribe an acid blocker if your cough is associated with acid reflux.
Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Persistent or worsening cough
- Productive cough with phlegm and mucus.
- Coughing up pink phlegm or blood
- Cough with pain or pressure in the chest
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- A cough that keeps you awake at night.
- Cough that causes hoarseness
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you are taking may be causing your cough. In addition to ACE inhibitors, coughing can be caused by nasal sprays of zocor (simvastatin) , coreg (carvedilol), actonel (risedronate), and fluticasone.
In some cases, a reduction in dosage or a change in medication may be all that is needed to overcome this common side effect.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
Many CAM treatments to relieve dry cough symptoms have been passed down through the generations. Despite claims of effectiveness, there is often only anecdotal evidence to support its use.
Raw honey is one of the oldest home remedies used to treat any type of cough. It covers the throat and may have natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve throat irritation. Its potential antimicrobial effects can also deter minor bacterial or viral infections.
A 2018 review of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded that honey is as effective as diphenhydramine (used in Benadryl), but not as effective as dextromethorphan (used in products like Delsym Cough) in treating coughs in children. kids.
Honey is well tolerated and generally welcomed by young children. However, it should not be given to children under 1 year of age due to the risk of developing botulism . Honey also affects blood sugar, so other options may be better if you need to be careful about glucose control.
Licorice root tea ( Glycyrrhiza glabra ) has long been known for its soothing effects on the throat. In traditional Chinese medicine, licorice root is called ganzao and has been used since 2100 BC. C. and is said to relieve pain, clear phlegm, and relieve coughs.
Licorice root tea can be found in many supermarkets and health food stores. Dried licorice root can be purchased online and used to make tea by steeping 2 tablespoons of the shaved root in 8 ounces of boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.
Although licorice root tea is generally considered safe, long-term consumption can cause severe high blood pressure and lead to menstrual irregularities, fatigue, headaches, water retention, and erectile dysfunction.
Marjoram ( Origanum majorana ) is a variety of oregano that has long been used in traditional medicine to alleviate a wide range of ailments. It has been said to contain plant-based anti-inflammatory compounds (phytochemicals) that can help relieve coughs associated with asthma, bronchitis, colds, and whooping cough (whooping cough).
To make marjoram tea, dip 3-4 teaspoons of dried marjoram in 250 ml of hot water and drink three times a day.
Marjoram is generally considered safe, but it can slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bruising and nosebleeds in people taking anticoagulant (blood thinning) medications.
Turmeric ( Curcuma longa ) contains a compound called curcumin, which is said to have mild antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat mild arthritis and respiratory ailments. However, most of these claims are not supported by research.
Some researchers have suggested that taking turmeric by mouth may relieve coughs and other asthma symptoms. It has not been shown to help with an acute cough.
That said, turmeric tea can be found in many grocery stores and is generally well tolerated. Turbulent capsules are another issue, overuse of which can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea and nausea.
Ginger ( Zingiber officinale ) has long been used to treat nausea and indigestion, but there is evidence that it can also suppress the cough reflex by relaxing the smooth muscles of the airways.
A 2013 review of research from Columbia University found that gingerol, a chemical in fresh ginger, can suppress airway hypersensitivity that can cause asthma symptoms, including coughing. It can have this effect when taken orally (for example, with tea or candied ginger) or when inhaled with steam.
However, it is important to avoid consuming too much ginger, as it can cause an upset stomach, heartburn, or diarrhea.
Garlic ( Allium sativum ) has mild antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Regular intake of garlic is believed to lower blood pressure and strengthen the immune system.
Garlic is believed to relieve coughs associated with the common cold, although most studies investigating the effect are mixed. A 2014 review of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found no benefit of using garlic to prevent or treat symptoms of the common cold in any of the eight studies reviewed.
That said, garlic is generally considered safe.
Marshmallow root, as the name suggests, is the root of the marshmallow plant ( Althea officinalis ), a variety of flowering mallow.
Marshmallow root has been used since ancient times to relieve sore throats, often in the form of a sweetened meringue-like treat. Its slightly sticky consistency can cover sore and sore throats, while flavonoids in the root are said to reduce inflammation.
A 2018 study from Complementary Medicine Research found that syrups and lozenges made with marshmallow root extract helped relieve a mild dry cough, usually within 10 minutes.
Marshmallow root tea can be purchased online and at some specialty health food stores. In general, it is considered safe, although little research has been done to evaluate its long-term safety. The plant can interfere with blood clotting and affect blood sugar levels.
Thyme ( Thymus vulgaris ) has been used medicinally since the Black Death in Europe. It contains a compound called thymol, which is believed to have an antispasmodic effect that helps relax the smooth muscles in the throat.
When consumed as a tea, thyme is probably safe for occasional use. You can make thyme tea by steeping 3-4 teaspoons of the dried herb in 8 ounces of boiling water. Sweeten with honey to ease a cough.
Thyme essential oil, commonly used in aromatherapy , should not be taken orally as it can cause a potentially serious drop in blood pressure.
Get the word of drug information
Natural cough remedies are designed to provide short-term relief from a dry cough that can occur with minor illnesses, allergies, asthma, and reflux. They should not be used to delay a diagnosis or to treat a moderate to severe cough, or a cough that just won't go away. Very often, your doctor can determine the cause of your chronic cough and suggest a treatment plan to improve your condition.
Frequently asked questions
A dry cough does not produce mucus or phlegm like a wet or productive cough. If you cough dry, you may feel a scratch or sore throat in the back of your throat.
Dry cough may be due to irritation of the nerves in the airways. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as allergens, infections, smoke, dust, stomach acid, and nasal mucus.
Before going to bed, try drinking some fluids, such as warm tea. For adults and children over the age of 1, adding honey to tea can also help ease a cough. Use extra pillows to lift your head to reduce acid reflux and runny nose and throat. You can also try using a cool mist humidifier at night if the dry air aggravates your symptoms.