It can be irritating to cough dry and hiccup. However, it may also indicate a more serious condition, such as chronic lung disease. Here are a few reasons why you should see a doctor if you have a dry cough that keeps coming back.
More than just a persistent cough, a cough can be a sign of a number of health issues, especially if it persists. According to Cleveland Clinic, the most common reason patients visit their primary care physicians is a cough. A cough that lasts for more than eight weeks, or chronic cough, may seem alarming. However, it can actually be quite prevalent and may be brought on by:
Note: Postnasal drip therapy with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are the causes of chronic coughs in nine out of ten nonsmokers, according to Harvard Health. Other causes include allergies, asthma, and bronchitis. However, when combined with other symptoms, chronic dry cough may indicate a larger, more serious issue, such as:
According to the American Lung Association, if you smoke or used to smoke, you are more likely to develop a chronic dry cough. Acute sinusitis chronic sinusitis bronchiolitis cystic fibrosis emphysema laryngitis pertussis (whooping cough) COPD heart failure croup tuberculosis idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) lung infection lung cancer acute sinusitis chronic sinusitis chronic It is safe to say that a dry cough alone is not sufficient to diagnose a larger issue due to the extensive list of causes. Before recommending any treatments, your doctor will almost certainly need to conduct additional examinations and tests to determine the underlying cause.
When to see a doctor If you have a dry cough that doesn't go away and you start having other symptoms, that could be a sign of something more serious. If left untreated, chronic lung conditions like IPF, lung cancer, and heart failure can quickly get worse. If any of the following symptoms accompany your dry cough, you should see a doctor right away:
Shortness of breath, a high or prolonged fever, choking, coughing up blood or bloody phlegm, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, wheezing, chest pain when you are not coughing, night sweats that get worse, and leg swelling. Experts say that the combination of one or more of these symptoms with dry cough can often be alarming. However, it is important not to jump to any conclusions before a full workup has been performed.
One common symptom of IPF is a persistent dry cough. According to Dr. Steven Nathan, medical director of the Advanced Lung Disease and Transplant Program at Inova Fairfax Hospital, "a Velcro-like crackle in the lungs that a doctor can hear through a stethoscope" are typical additional symptoms of IPF.
However, doctors usually try to rule out more common causes of coughs, like postnasal drip, GERD, or a hyperactive airway, before treating them. When a patient doesn't respond to treatments and the problem isn't a more common condition, a doctor will focus on more unusual diagnoses like IPF.
Evaluation and testing Your doctor may order a number of tests to help diagnose the cause of your dry cough, depending on your other symptoms. Your doctor will ask you some questions about your dry cough, such as when it started, if you notice any triggers, and if you have any medical conditions. This will come after the physical exam. Your doctor may order the following tests:
chest X-ray, blood sample, CT scan, throat swab, phlegm sample, spirometry, and methacholine challenge test are all ways your doctor can get a closer look inside your chest and test your bodily fluids for infections or other health issues. Others will assess your ability to breathe. You may be referred to a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in lung and respiratory diseases, who may order additional tests if these still aren't enough to pinpoint the problem.
Options for treatment Dry cough can be treated with a variety of over-the-counter and homeopathic remedies for a short time. However, it is essential to keep in mind that these treatments are not likely to eliminate the cough because it is almost always a sign of a larger issue. After your visit, your doctor will give you treatment options based on any diagnosis they make.
In the interim, the American Lung Association suggests the following to ease your persistent cough:
steamy shower or cough drops or hard candy Honey vaporizer Long-term risks of dry cough If left untreated, a persistent dry cough can be harmful to your overall health. By scarring your lung tissue even more, it has the potential to aggravate any existing conditions, such as IPF. It can also make your day-to-day life harder, cause discomfort, and even damage.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that a dry cough is harmful. However, due to the tremendous force and pressure that a cough puts on the airway, some doctors believe it could be harmful, says Dr. Nathan.
If you suffer from a persistent dry cough, the following are some potential dangers:
headaches, nausea, and vomiting; chest and muscle aches; sore throat, hoarseness; broken ribs; incontinence. If the problem is severe, you may even avoid social settings, which can cause anxiety, frustration, and depression. Although persistent dry cough may not always indicate something that could endanger one's life, it can be harmful. As a result, it's critical to deal with it right away.
HISTORY Our contributors keep a close eye on the health and wellness industry and regularly update our content.
What Causes Chest Pain and Dry Cough?
Medically reviewed by Gerhard Whitworth, R.N. — Written by James Roland on May 28, 2019 Causes Diagnosis Treatment Prevention Emergency symptoms In conclusion, a cough is just a way to remove irritants from your airways.
An "unproductive cough" is another name for a dry cough. This is due to the fact that a dry cough does not produce any phlegm or sputum from the airways.
Dry cough and chest pain can be caused by a variety of conditions. Continue reading to learn more about these conditions, the options available to you for treatment, and the signs to look out for.
Causes Dry coughs and chest pains can be brought on by anything from minor, short-term conditions to more serious diseases:
Inflammation and airway narrowing are the hallmarks of asthma. Your coughs can be dry or productive and produce mucus from the airways that are affected.
Asthma can also cause wheezing and shortness of breath, as well as pain and tightness in the chest.
An asthma attack can be triggered by:
exercise certain foods viruses in the air allergens like pollen and dust mites Your doctor may suggest taking medication or making changes to your lifestyle to help manage your asthma.
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition that occurs when acid reflux is severe. The reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus is known as acid reflux.
When there is a problem with the esophageal sphincter, acid reflux occurs. This is the muscle that controls how food and fluids get into the stomach at the bottom of the esophagus.
GERD can cause:
If left untreated, GERD can cause heartburn, a sour taste in the mouth, dry cough, and significant esophageal damage. Consult a doctor for treatment if you have acid reflux more than twice per week.
Infection of the respiratory system A viral or bacterial infection of the respiratory system can result in a variety of symptoms. Occasionally, those symptoms can assist in determining the infection's nature.
A common cold, for instance, typically consists of a virus that causes a sore throat, cough, and mild fever. These symptoms, as well as body aches and pains and a higher-grade fever, can also be caused by the influenza virus.
After a few days, a respiratory virus typically reaches its peak and gradually improves. Rest, fluids, and anti-inflammatory medications for inflammation and fever are all that are required. Viruses can't be fixed by antibiotics.
As time goes on, bacterial infections typically become more severe. Antibiotics and a doctor's evaluation are typically required to treat them.
You may experience a dry cough in the final days of a viral or bacterial infection.
Environmental irritants Numerous environmental irritants can make the chest feel tight and dry cough. They consist of:
smoke, pollen, and dust Extremely dry and cold air can also cause dry coughs.
Avoiding the irritant is frequently a good way to find relief.
Pneumothorax is the medical term for a collapsed lung. Collapsed lung It can be brought on by trauma from an accident or high-contact sport, lung disease, or even extreme changes in air pressure.
The following are signs of a collapsed lung:
Dry cough, shortness of breath, and sudden chest pain are all symptoms of a collapsed lung. A collapsed lung can heal on its own in some minor cases.
Lung cancer Early signs and symptoms include:
a persistent cough that worsens with deep breathing and coughing, cough with bloody sputum, and chest pain. Many cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking cigarettes. If you smoke, use the numerous free resources available to assist you in quitting.
Lung cancer treatment options vary depending on the stage of the disease. It might include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to meet the body's needs. It can occur as a result of a heart attack or another type of heart disease.
The following are signs of heart failure:
Heart failure is a serious condition that necessitates ongoing medical care from a cardiologist. Symptoms include persistent cough, shortness of breath, swelling of the legs and ankles, and extreme fatigue.
Diagnosis If you experience sudden, severe, and unrelated chest pain, see a doctor right away.
Consult your doctor if you have a dry cough that lasts for more than a week and chest pain that doesn't go away.
In addition to performing a physical examination and reviewing your medical history, your doctor will ask you some questions, such as:
When did the symptoms begin?
Do you ever experience productive coughs, which are those that produce phlegm?
Do things like exercise, food, pollen, or dust cause symptoms?
Can you describe the pain in the chest? Is it a pain? a burning or piercing pain? Does it fluctuate?
What, if any, causes symptoms to go away?
Do you feel worse when you lie down?
Have you ever experienced any other symptoms?
Your doctor may also use additional diagnostic procedures, such as:
Spirometry is a test that measures how quickly and how much you inhale and exhale.
MRI of the chest Lung cancer, a collapsed lung, and other conditions can all be detected using this imaging test.
a blood test. In order to assess your heart health, your doctor will look for particular proteins and enzymes.
Culture of bacterial sputum. This quick test enables your physician to prescribe the appropriate treatment by determining the kind of bacterium that is causing your symptoms.
Laryngoscopy. For a closer look, a flexible, thin scope with a tiny camera is inserted into your throat.
Options for treatment: Your options for treatment will be determined by the underlying cause of your chest pain and dry cough:
Asthma: Depending on your requirements, your doctor may suggest using an inhaler. Bronchodilators that work quickly can open up the airways quickly. Inflammation can be reduced with a corticosteroid that lasts longer.
As needed, the bronchodilator can be used to treat asthma, for example. The corticosteroid might be used every day.
GERD Your doctor may suggest proton pump inhibitors or antacids to control stomach acid.
Long-term management of GERD may also be aided by lifestyle changes.
Try these ten home remedies for quick relief from heartburn.
Respiratory infection: Some home remedies can be used to treat a dry cough caused by a persistent respiratory infection like the common cold. Think about trying:
throat lozenges, a vaporizer to add moisture to your bedroom, a steamy, hot shower to help moisten the airways, drinking more fluids like hot tea with honey, and medications that contain dextromethorphan (Robitussin). Always adhere to the label's instructions.
Environmental irritants: Usually, stopping the coughing and discomfort in the chest can be stopped by reducing your exposure to environmental irritants.
Consider taking an allergy medication or staying inside whenever possible to avoid freezing temperatures and days with a high pollen count.
Consult your doctor if you experience recurrent dry coughing, tightness or pain in your chest, or other allergic reactions. They might send you to an allergist, who will be able to help you find the cause of your symptoms and get you better.
Lung collapse: The treatment you receive for a collapsed lung will depend on how severe it is, what caused it, and whether you have ever had one.
Numerous minor conditions may resolve on their own. In order to ensure that the lung is healing as it should, your doctor may take a "watch and wait" approach. With regular X-rays, they'll keep an eye on how well your lung is healing.
More invasive treatments may be required for repeat cases that are moderate to severe. This may entail removing the affected part of the lung, sewing together lung leaks, or removing excess air through the use of a chest tube.
Heart or lung disease: If your chest pains are caused by a heart or lung disease, your doctor may advise you to take prescription drugs or undergo other treatments or procedures.
You may need bypass surgery or a mesh tube known as a stent inserted into the blocked blood vessel to improve circulation to the heart muscle if the pain is caused by a clogged artery.
Changes in your lifestyle can help prevent many cases of dry coughing and chest pain:
When pollen counts are high and the air quality is poor, it is best to stay inside as much as possible with the windows closed.
Give up smoking. Install a free app to assist you in quitting.
Sleep on an incline with your head and upper body if lying flat causes chest pain. Use a mattress that can be adjusted to your preferred angles or an additional pillow.
Eat a diet that doesn't make your stomach make too much acid. Avoid the following 11 foods.
Not all chest pain indicates a heart attack or other serious condition.
However, if you experience sudden and severe chest pain, whether or not you cough, you should see a doctor right away. It could be a symptom of a heart attack or another cardiac event that requires immediate medical attention.
Also, if you have a dry cough with or without chest pain and any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor right away: shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up blood or bloody phlegm, unexplained weakness, fatigue, unexplained sweating, leg swelling, lightheadedness. The takeaway is that a dry cough and chest pain can be caused by anything from a common cold to a more serious condition.
The majority of causes of chest pain and dry cough can be treated or will go away on their own. However, you should see a doctor if your dry cough persists for more than a week or gets worse. Chest pain that is severe, sudden, and unrelated to anything else should be treated right away.
See a doctor for answers and relief rather than pondering whether you have an allergy or something more serious.
Running, for example, is an established exercise routine that most people don't want to break. But what if you have a cough and aren't feeling well?
Well, sometimes it's okay to run when you have a cough, and other times it's best not to.
When running with a cough is acceptable The Mayo Clinic's general guide for exercise and illness includes the "above the neck/below the neck" decision criteria:
over the head. If your signs and symptoms are all above the neck, most people can exercise. Sneezing, occasional dry cough, nasal congestion, and runny nose are all examples of this.
beneath the chin. If your symptoms are below the neck, stop running and other forms of exercise. Diarrhea, congestion in the chest, and productive or hacking cough are all examples of this.
Reduce the duration and intensity of your workout, even if your symptoms are above the neck. Instead of trying to meet a time or distance goal based on when you were feeling well, it might be better to walk or jog slowly.
Coughs of various kinds: When deciding whether to go "above the neck" or "below the neck," pay close attention to your cough.
A dry cough does not produce any phlegm or mucus. Airway irritants frequently trigger them. A nonproductive cough is another name for a dry cough. If you occasionally experience a dry cough, you should probably go for your run.
Productive cough: A cough that makes you cough up phlegm or mucus is called a productive cough. Consider postponing your run until your cough gets better if it makes it hard to breathe, especially when your heart rate is high.
What should you do if the cough continues?
An acute cough occurs when a cough lasts for less than three weeks. A chronic cough is one that persists for more than eight weeks.
Influenza, common cold, and pneumonia are all common causes of acute coughs. Inhalation of an irritant is another common cause of chronic coughs, as are bronchitis, allergies, GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, and asthma. Will taking time off affect my fitness level?
You might be concerned that taking a few days off from exercise will make you perform less well. A serious runner might be worried about their VO2 max, which is a measure of how much oxygen they can carry and use during intense exercise.
Should My Dry Cough Cause Me Concern?
When something tickles your throat or a piece of food "goes down the wrong pipe," it's normal to cough. After all, coughing is your body's way of getting rid of mucus, fluids, irritants, or microbes from your throat and airways. It is less common to have a dry cough, which is a cough that does not help expel any of these.
What is causing my dry cough?
A bronchitis or upper respiratory infection can cause a persistent dry cough. Asthma, smoking, and viral throat infections are additional common causes of dry throat cough. Dry coughs are less common due to COPD and viral pneumonia.
How serious is dry cough?
If you don't get treatment for your chronic dry cough, it can be harmful to your health as a whole. By scarring your lung tissue even more, it has the potential to aggravate any existing conditions, such as IPF. It can also make your day-to-day life harder, cause discomfort, and even damage.
What causes a nighttime dry cough?
Your throat is drier than usual because you produce less saliva while you sleep. When your throat is dry, it is more sensitive to airborne irritants that can make you cough. You might sleep with your mouth open if you have a stuffy nose, which also makes your throat dry.
What foods should cough patients avoid?
Sweet foods, such as desserts, soft drinks, fruit juices, and all kinds of nectar, should be temporarily avoided because sugar in food increases the body's risk of inflammation and infection. People who have a cold may find that their symptoms do not improve or become more severe while coughing.