What is a dry cough?

A dry cough refers to a cough that does not produce mucus (also known as phlegm or sputum). A cough is your body’s defensive reflex that functions to keep your airways clear of irritating or obstructing substances so you can breathe effectively. Over time, a dry cough can often become a productive cough as the lungs produce more sputum.

A dry cough is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. A dry cough can result from infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, airway obstruction, and other abnormal processes.

You may have a dry, hacking cough after inhaling a mild irritant, such as dust, smoke or powder. A dry cough may also be the result of a disorder, such as an allergy, or an infectious disease, such as viral laryngitis. A dry cough can accompany serious and potentially life-threatening conditions including congestive heart failure and lung cancer.

Depending on the cause, a dry cough can begin suddenly and disappear quickly, such as after inhaling secondhand smoke. An acute dry cough that comes on suddenly and lasts up to two to three weeks is usually associated with a cold; whereas, a chronic dry cough over a long period of time (lasting more than eight weeks) may be caused by smoking or asthma.

A dry cough can be a sign of a serious or life-threatening disorder. If you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or swollen legs or ankles, seek immediate medical care (call 911). If your dry cough is persistent or causes you concern, see your doctor.


What other symptoms might occur with a dry cough?

A dry cough often occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Symptoms including sounds the lungs make while you are breathing, changes in blood pressure, and low blood oxygen levels ... Read more about dry coughsymptoms


What causes a dry cough?

A dry cough has many causes, the most common of which is an upper airway infection that follows a cold. A cold can also lead to a productive cough, which is a cough that produces mucus (phlegm). A persistent, dry cough could also be due to whooping cough (pertussis) or a sign of a chronic condition, such as emphysema or asthma... Read more about dry coughcauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration, Allergies

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