What are the Causes of a Dry Cough?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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There are various causes of a dry cough, from benign to serious. A physician will take other symptoms into consideration when diagnosing what's causing a dry cough. A dry cough can be a symptom of a respiratory tract infection, allergies, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, lung cancer, or exposure to cigarette smoke. Any cough that lasts longer than 10 days, or which is accompanied by a fever, sore neck, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or a bloody or green discharge needs to be evaluated by a doctor immediately.

A respiratory tract infection is one of the more common causes of a dry cough. Respiratory tract infections include colds, influenza, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Other symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose, sore or itchy throat, body aches, watering eyes, a fever, and sneezing. Symptoms of sinusitis, which often develops as a complication of the common cold, include congestion, pain in the face, concentrated around the forehead, cheeks, or eyes, tooth pain, and trouble smelling or tasting.

Allergies can also cause a dry cough. Allergies to outdoor or indoor substances, such as pet dander, pollen, mold, or dust, can cause a dry cough, sneezing, itching, watery eyes, and a sore throat. Symptoms of allergies often depend on the weather and level of exposure. A dry cough that comes and goes may be caused by an allergy.


Another possible cause of a dry cough is asthma. Additional symptoms of asthma include chest pain or tightness, whistling or wheezing while trying to breath, and a shortness of breath. People who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, experience a dry cough, along with shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and frequent respiratory infections.

One of the most serious causes of a dry cough is lung cancer. Additional symptoms of lung cancer include coughing up blood, bone pain, chest pain, weight loss, headaches, wheezing, and shortness of breath. While serious, lung cancer is a rare cause of a dry cough.

Most cases of a dry cough are caused by mild irritations of the respiratory tract, such as the common cold, allergies, or inhaled dust. Treat these coughs with cough drops or hard candy to soothe the throat, and by drinking plenty of water and other fluids. Increasing the moisture level in your home with a humidifier can also provide relief from a dry cough.


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Post 3

I've only had dry cough once in my life and that was due to exposure to cigarette smoke. I was working at a cafe where people could smoke and I was exposed to that smoke five days a week for eight hours. I developed a persistent dry cough because of it. The cough disappeared after I left that job. I guess the smoke had seriously irritated my lungs.

My roommate told me that air pollution could cause a dry cough as well. She was in Cairo, Egypt in 2004 for six months, which was apparently one of the most polluted places in the world at the time. She said she developed a weird dry cough that continued even after she came back. It's unbelievable what bad air can do to the lungs, whether it's pollution or cigarette smoke.

Post 2

@bluedolphin-- It's possible. Allergies are sometimes difficult to understand and it's unique to each individual. You may be allergic to something while others in your house are not. You may also suddenly become allergic to something that you were never allergic to before.

Since the dry cough started after you arrived home, I think that you are probably allergic to something in the home. I would consider dust and mold allergies first since these are issues that frequently occur in homes. Inspect your environment and clean dust as much as you can. Also inspect the basement and other humid areas of the home for possible mold growth. You may want to consider getting an air purifier.

You can see a doctor who can recommend or prescribe an allergy medication. But removing the cause of the allergy is the best way to cure an allergic dry cough.

Post 1

I was away at college and now I'm back home for summer break. Since I've arrived home, I've had a persistent dry cough that will not go away. I have never experienced something like this before and this is not a new place, it's my home. Could I suddenly become allergic to something I was not allergic to before?

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