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Dry Coughs

Topic Overview

Dry coughs that continue after other cold symptoms clear or that occur without other symptoms may be caused by a variety of health problems.

Some people start coughing when they breathe very dry, heated air. This can be caused by environmental irritation or allergies. This type of cough may be more noticeable when you first turn on your furnace in the fall, because dust and other irritants that have collected over the summer are blown into the air.

Chronic dry coughs are usually caused by irritation from cigarette smoke, environmental irritants, allergies, postnasal drip, or asthma. Several chronic lung diseases also cause a dry, hacking cough. Some people cough out of habit for no clear reason.

Gastric reflux may also cause a chronic dry cough. Usually you will also have other symptoms, such as heartburn, burning in the throat, or increased saliva.

Less common causes of a dry cough include:

  • Whooping cough (pertussis).
  • Influenza.
  • A swallowed or inhaled object.
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia.
  • Side effects from some heart and blood pressure medicines.
  • Viral illnesses that may occur frequently, such as the common cold.

A doctor can evaluate your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
Last Revised July 10, 2012

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