A couple of months ago, I think I caught a viral respiratory infection. It lasted for a few weeks, at which time I was coughing up lots of phlegm and mucous. However, ever since then, I’ve had a persistent dry cough that produces nothing. It feels like there is a dry or scratchy patch in my throat that causes me to cough, especially while I’m talking or have any pressure against my back. I now have a position where I am on the phone for most of the day and the more I talk on the phone, the more the cough persists and causes problems.
I chalked it up to allergies or sinuses and continue to take allergy medication but it hasn’t helped to stop the dry cough. I try sucking on throat lozenges and cough drops, but they only help temporarily. I’ve tried taking a spoon of honey, but like the cough drops, it only helps for a short time and then the dry cough returns. I’ve been taking antibiotics, but they haven’t helped either.
I recently saw a doctor about my sleeping issues and he told me I had an irritable airway. When I researched irritable airway, the vast majority of information led to a condition known as restrictive airway dysfunction syndrome, that is most common in children under the age of 5. It does occur in adults, but usually due to the inhalation of certain types of fumes, vapors and gases. Some sources link it to a form of asthma or early stages of COPD. The symptoms of RADS often mimic asthma but often do not respond to most asthma treatments.
Not feeling satisfied with these directions, I researched ‘dry cough’ and found some interesting information that I would like to share, as many people also suffer from a dry non-productive cough.
One of the things I learned about a dry cough is that it can last for months, depending on the cause and the causes are many and surprising. They are:
1- Asthma – Asthma can produce both a productive (producing phlegm and mucous) and non-productive cough, but most cases of dry cough are not asthma related.
2- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – This is the condition of chronic acid reflux that occurs when the stomach acids reverse and come up into the esophagus and even the mouth. I admit that I have GERD but I usually take an effective over the counter medication to control it, although I haven’t been taking it consistently, but am planning to do so from now on to see if that makes a difference.
3- Postnasal Drip – This is when extra mucous drips down the throat. It can happen with a cold and even seasonal allergies. This type of mucous is watery, thin and runs down the back of the throat, triggering a reaction from the nerves in the back of the throat. This is what I strongly suspect is causing my dry cough. How do you treat this? Steam, like that in a hot shower or produced by a tea kettle (be careful not to burn yourself), using a saline nasal spray or use a Neti pot to rinse the sinuses.
4- Viral Infection – Some viral infections like those that cause the common cold usually are relatively short term. However, in many cases, a cough can linger on for weeks afterward. Or is this what I have?
5- Environmental Irritants – These can include smoke, pollution, dust, mold and pollen. Additionally, air that is too dry and/or too cold can cause a dry irritable cough.
6- ACE Inhibitors – These include enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril). These drugs are often used to treat high blood pressure. I do take lisinopril for high blood pressure. Is this the cause of my dry cough?
7- Whopping Cough – Also called pertussis. This generally produces a more severe cough.
8- Collapsed Lung – This is when a lung suddenly collapses, also known as pneumothorax.
9 – Lung Cancer – Generally, a dry cough associated with lung cancer steadily gets worse and becomes painful.
10- Heart Failure – This usually has a host of many other symptoms besides a dry cough.
So, I’ve kind of narrowed down the cause of my dry cough to numbers 2,3,4 & 6. The big question is how to treat??? I’ll start taking my GERD medication on a regular basis to eliminate that one, but that still leaves me with three other possible causes. Good thing I have an appointment with my doctor in a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll find an answer then If you are one of the millions that suffer from a dry cough, look through the list above and see if any apply and then see your doctor to try to narrow down the cause so you can treat it.