A dry chronic cough can be caused by a range of things, from lung disease to medications. A persistent cough should be evaluated, as it may be a sign of a medical problem, in addition to being irritating for the patient. When going to a doctor for a chronic cough, as much information as possible about the cough should be provided. If there is a period of the day when coughing seems to happen more often or if a patient has a recent history of disease, these can provide important diagnostic clues.
A common culprit is lung disease or chronic inflammation. Asthma, smoking, and numerous respiratory conditions are all linked with a dry chronic cough. In addition, patients can develop a cough with an infection, or a condition called a post-infectious cough, where the infection is over and the patient is better, but coughing persists. The coughing can irritate the throat and become self perpetuating, as the irritation leads to coughing to clear the throat, followed by more irritation, and so forth.
Certain medications, particularly angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure, can cause a chronic cough. Changing or discontinuing medication may resolve the issue and make the patient feel more comfortable. In addition, this type of cough is linked with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Sometimes, the cough is present without the heartburn feeling people associated with acid reflux, and it may be the most obvious clinical sign of a problem.
Moving to a dry climate can cause a person to develop a dry chronic cough. While the body adjusts to the change, coughing can be a problem, especially if the area is dusty. Using a humidifier can help with the coughing, in addition to easing symptoms of dry skin. Heat is not necessarily a factor; hot dry climates like the desert are as likely to cause coughing as cold dry climates like those seen at extreme latitudes. People who keep coughing for several weeks may want to see a doctor to determine if there is another cause.
Treatments for a chronic cough can include taking or changing medications, quitting smoking, using humidifiers for climate control, and things like lozenges to address throat irritation. Even if patients are not bothered by a cough, they should see a doctor, as it may be the only noticeable symptom of a more serious problem. Receiving treatment for the cough can prevent future complications and keep patients more comfortable.