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Dry Cough that won’t go away: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies
22 Dec 2023

Dry Cough that won’t go away: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

Experiencing a persistent dry and tickly cough? Tickly coughs can be quite bothersome and persistent. Seeking guidance from medical specialists regarding the causes, symptoms, and potential remedies for this condition is essential. It's important to note that a dry cough can have serious underlying causes that may worsen over time. This reflex, triggered by irritants or inflammation, should not be underestimated. Read on to gain insight into the precise origins of a dry cough and when it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

What You Need to Understand About a Tickly Cough

A tickly cough closely resembles a dry cough, devoid of mucus or phlegm expulsion. Unlike a chesty cough, there is no mucus buildup or lung congestion involved. This type of cough arises from inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, causing a sensation of tickling at the back of your throat.

Dry Cough – Understanding Its Various Forms:

Persistent Cough: When a cough lingers for an extended period, it qualifies as a chronic cough. It tends to peak during the day and can result in fits of coughing. In severe cases, it may be painful, stubborn, and even lead to strained muscles or incontinence among elderly individuals. Multiple factors can trigger this, including allergies, inflammation, or medication side effects. Conduct allergy testing to know if you are suffering from any of them. 

Tickly Cough: What's behind that irritating, tickling sensation in the throat that provokes unrelenting coughing? It can stem from inflammation caused by a cold or flu virus, atmospheric conditions like climate or pollution, or even post-nasal drip, where mucus drips down from the sinuses into the throat.

Barking Cough: Named for its resemblance to a dog's bark, this cough can occur during the day or night and may include wheezing. Typically, it results from inflammation, often following a cold or flu, and it can be quite painful.

Plum Pit Cough: Imagine feeling as though there's a persistent lump in your throat that won't budge, accompanied by a slightly acidic taste when you cough. This sensation is frequently linked to GORD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, where stomach acid rises into the esophagus, potentially leading to more serious conditions.

Wheezy Cough: This type of cough tends to worsen at night or upon awakening in the morning. Typically, it is accompanied by a wheezing sound resulting from the constriction of the airways, a condition known as bronchospasm, often linked to asthma.

Dry Cough and Asthma:

A significant percentage, approximately 10 percent, of individuals with asthma remain undiagnosed. If you are experiencing a severe cough of any kind, it is advisable to schedule a routine health check-up with a healthcare professional to determine whether asthma is a contributing factor.

Asthmatic coughs often manifest with a wheezing sound, a consequence of the impact asthma has on the airways. Inflammation can lead to constriction and narrowing of the airways, resulting in reduced airflow. While a dry and wheezy cough serves as an indicator of this condition, it can also pose a serious threat by causing breathing difficulties.

Common signs of asthma include a cough that worsens during exertion or physical activity, shortness of breath, a sensation of chest tightness, or an overall feeling of fatigue.

Allergic Asthma:

Allergic asthma closely resembles regular asthma, but its distinguishing feature lies in its triggers, which include allergens such as dust, pet dander, pollen, or mold. These allergens can induce inflammation in the lung's airways, leading to difficulties in breathing, coughing, or even full-blown asthma attacks. Individuals with this condition may also find it exacerbated by cold weather, exposure to fumes, smoke, or strong perfume odors. Managing allergic asthma often involves identifying and avoiding these triggers to mitigate its effects.

Post-Viral Asthma:

If you notice that your asthma symptoms worsen following a cold, flu, recent illness, or persistent cough, you may be experiencing post-viral asthma. This condition may be partially attributed to the immune system's inflammatory response to an infection. When this inflammation occurs in the lungs, it can lead to swelling of the airways. For those affected, prevention is paramount. Healthcare professionals may recommend flu vaccinations and other preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of contracting colds and flus in the first place.

Tickly Cough Symptoms

The primary symptom associated with a tickly cough is the sensation of an itch in the throat, which often triggers a natural cough reflex or sneezing. As the cough persists, it can lead to additional discomforts, including a sore throat, chest muscle pain, and a runny nose.

Causes of Tickly Cough

Tickly coughs are typically attributed to recent cases of the flu or cold, a condition often referred to as a post-viral cough. During this period, individuals may also experience cold and flu-like symptoms. Additionally, tickly coughs can be provoked by various factors, such as allergies, fluctuations in temperature, or exposure to air pollution.

Causes of Dry Cough:

  • Viruses
  • Smoking
  • Asthma
  • Acid reflux or GORD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
  • Conditions like bronchitis, sinusitis, and tonsillitis
  • Allergies or hay fever triggered by dust, pollution, pet dander, pollen, or second-hand smoke
  • Environmental factors, including dry climates and temperature changes
  • Inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis) resulting in voice loss
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Medications, as coughing can be a side effect of ACE inhibitors.

How Does a Tickly Cough Sound and Feel?

A tickly cough results from inflammation of the airways. This can create a sensation akin to something irritating the back of your throat. This sensation triggers coughing, even in the absence of mucus in your lungs. Despite the discomfort, there is typically no production of mucus or phlegm during a tickly cough.

How Long Does a Tickly Cough Last?

In most cases, tickly coughs do not necessitate immediate medical attention and tend to resolve independently within a span of three to four weeks. Nevertheless, it's important to exercise caution and seek guidance from a pharmacist or your general practitioner if your cough persists beyond this duration or worsens. Prolonged or worsening tickly coughs may serve as potential indicators of underlying conditions such as asthma, heartburn, or heart failure.

When It's Serious:

In any instance where you have a persistent dry cough that doesn't seem to go away, it's crucial to schedule an appointment with a general practitioner (GP). Seeking medical attention promptly is always advisable, whether you're dealing with a minor ailment or recovering from an infection, as it helps ensure that your condition doesn't worsen.

In the case of a dry cough, this becomes especially important. While it is relatively rare, a chronic dry cough can be a symptom of some severe and potentially life-threatening conditions, including:

Heart Failure:

  • A dry cough can sometimes indicate heart failure, which arises from an accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
  • This may occur when the heart isn't pumping blood as efficiently as it should.
  • Coughing associated with fluid buildup often worsens in the morning and can even lead to breathlessness upon awakening.

Pulmonary Embolism:

  • Pulmonary embolism involves a blood clot in an artery within the lungs.
  • These clots typically form in other parts of the body and then travel through the bloodstream to the lungs.
  • Symptoms may include coughing, possibly accompanied by blood, and severe chest pain.
  • Urgent treatment is essential to address this condition, as it can be fatal if left untreated.

Lung Cancer:

  • In its early stages, lung cancer may not manifest any noticeable symptoms.
  • As the disease progresses, a persistent cough becomes one of the earliest signs.
  • This cough is typically new, unrelenting, and distinct from previous coughs you may have experienced.
  • Additional symptoms might include a hoarse throat, wheezing, shortness of breath, or frequent lung infections or colds.

In any of these cases, timely medical evaluation and diagnosis are essential for appropriate treatment and management. Don't hesitate to seek medical guidance if you have concerns about your cough or its underlying causes.

How to manage tickly cough

How you can deal with tickly cough

Though there is no cure for tickly coughs, you can get rid of the symptoms with the right remedy. Below are top tips to manage tickly cough:

  • Avoid Dry, Dusty, or Polluted Environments: Exposure to these environments can trigger coughing fits, so try to stay away from them as much as possible.
  • Gargle with Lukewarm Saltwater: Gargling with lukewarm saltwater four times a day can help reduce throat irritation and soothe the tickle sensation.
  • Take a Hot Bath or Shower: Inhaling steam during a hot bath or shower can provide moisture to your throat and ease dryness, offering relief from the cough.
  • Try using throat lozenges or cough drops: These may stimulate saliva production and keep the throat moist to lessen irritation.
  • Rest Your Voice: If your throat is sore, it's essential to give your voice proper rest. Avoid talking excessively or straining your vocal cords.
  • Avoid Known Triggers: If you're aware that certain allergens or environmental factors, such as dust, have caused your tickly cough, make an effort to avoid these triggers until your cough has cleared up.

Remember that these tips can help manage the symptoms of a tickly cough, but if the cough persists or worsens, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment. They can provide more specific guidance and may recommend further interventions if needed.

Tickly Cough Remedies:

If you are dealing with a persistent dry and tickly cough that doesn't seem to improve, you may consider using over-the-counter cough medicines. Many cough medicines contain glycerol, which is effective in addressing tickly coughs and can also help alleviate a sore throat.

Be Safe:

It's crucial to prioritize your health and not ignore any signs of illness. If you are feeling unwell or have concerns about your cough, don't hesitate to make an appointment to visit your nearest walk-in clinic as soon as possible. Seeking prompt medical attention ensures that you receive a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment, especially when dealing with persistent symptoms.

If you are residing in London and have dry tickly cough that wont go away, then see our private doctor at walk in clinic to get treated and solve unnecessary complications in future.


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