There are a number of reasons for a patient to develop a dry cough, ranging from the early signs of a respiratory infection to a cancerous growth in the lungs. Persistent dry coughs should be treated by a doctor, as he or she can determine the cause and recommend a treatment which will address the underlying issues. Failure to receive treatment for this kind of cough can allow an underlying problem to become quite severe, a very undesirable outcome.
Some people experience dry coughs in the early stages of a respiratory or viral infection, or when an infection is on the wane. When such infections are at their peak, the cough usually becomes productive, with coughs bringing up sputum, in contrast with a true dry cough, which tends to feel dry and rasping. People with chronic infections can develop very severe coughs which may leave the throat feeling very tender.
Irritation to the lungs or trachea is another common cause. People with asthma often have chronic dry coughs, as do smokers and people who live in areas with substantial air pollution or very dry air. A foreign body in the throat can also cause coughing as the throat experiences irritation and attempts to expel the object which does not belong. Gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD) can also cause coughing, as the gastric juices irritate the lining of the trachea and generate coughing.
Certain medications are associated with dry coughs, in which case the cough is usually listed as a side effect. Pulmonary diseases are another common cause, as are allergies, especially seasonal allergies to pollen and other particulates which can be present in the air. Sinus problems and an issue known as postnasal drip, in which mucus accumulates in the back of the throat, are also linked with coughing, although more commonly people with sinus problems cough up mucus.
A rasping, hacking cough can be extremely irritating and frustrating, not just for the patient, but for the people he or she lives and works around. Coughing is a sign that something in the respiratory system is distressed or not working properly, and it indicates that a trip to the doctor is necessary. There may be cases in which no treatment is available, but going to the doctor is still important, so that he or she can determine the cause of the coughing. Doctors may also be able to provide suggestions which can help to alleviate the cough, even if it cannot be cured.