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Tips on How to Help Relieve an Annoying Dry Cough

Having a dry cough can be an annoying thing to deal with. A dry cough can get in the way of important daily activities and keep you up at night. It is especially irritating when you’re in a quiet room and suddenly feel a persistent tickle in your throat, alerting you that an inevitable coughing fit is approaching. While there’s no way to bring your cough to a sudden halt, you can start treating a cough by identifying whether your cough is dry or wet and what is causing it. Taking the right steps to help a dry cough can provide you with the relief you need.

Young woman coughs into her hand with a blanket around her shoulders

Identifying a Dry Cough

The two types of coughs are wet (productive) and dry (nonproductive).1 A wet cough is when coughing up mucus from the airway makes the cough sound “wet” as mucus shifts in the airway.2 On the other hand, a dry cough (also known as a hacking cough) has a consistent tone because it is free from the sound of mucus and is caused by irritation and inflammation in the airway.2

What Causes Dry Cough?

Dry coughs can be caused by several different factors. Upper respiratory tract infections, or infections of the nose and throat are the most common cause of coughing related to illness.1 These coughs are almost always caused by viruses, and include the common cold, viral laryngitis, and influenza.1 Another common cause of dry cough is hay fever, or allergic rhinitis.1 Hay fever is a common allergic condition that mimics the symptoms of a common cold, and it is usually associated with dry cough, sneezing, and runny nose.2 Another possible cause of dry cough is through the inhalation of irritants. Even minor exposure to irritants like some vapors and fumes can cause inflammation of the throat and airway, which can lead to dry cough.1

How to relieve a dry cough

Dry coughs can be painful and irritating, but you can take some steps towards relieving the achy dryness that comes with hacking coughs. Even if a solution is temporary, it will still be helpful to feel relief while your body is fighting off whatever is causing you to cough. Below are some tips for how to help a dry cough so you can continue your day without distraction.

1. Cough drops and lozenges

The use of cough drops, hard candy, and lozenges can help soothe dry cough and sore throat.3 Cough drops are a common and portable solution to coughs, so you can quickly pop one in your mouth when you feel a spree of coughs come along, but always remember to use as directed. Remember to keep a few cough drops in your pocket when you’re getting over a dry cough to feel momentary relief from the dry, tickling sensation in your throat. While cough drops and hard candies are great to use, make sure you are never giving them to a child under age 3, as they can be a choking hazard.3 Try Robitussin Medi-Soothers for cough and sore throat pain relief that works fast. Please always refer to the product label for dosing instructions.

2. Using steam

When you have a dry cough, it’s best to keep your throat lubricated in whatever ways you can. You can help soothe a dry throat by increasing moisture in the air with steam or vapor. The easiest way to inhale steam is to turn on the hot water in your shower to fill your bathroom with steam, but you can alternatively breathe in the steam emitting from a boiling pot of water. Use extra caution when boiling water and avoid holding a towel over your head to trap the steam, as it can get too hot and burn your airways.4

Another easy way to fill your room with steam is to plug in a humidifier. Humidifiers are available for purchase at most drug stores and are a great way to add moisture to the air. Using a humidifier can especially be beneficial at night so you can breathe easier while sleeping and reduce the risk of a rude awakening by a dry cough.

3. Drinking water with honey

Water is another good way to keep your throat lubricated, and honey is a commonly used method to soothe throats. Dry, hacking coughs may respond well to honey in hot water, tea, or lemon juice.5 Warm beverages like hot water and tea paired with honey will not only relieve your throat but will also keep you hydrated while you recover from your dry cough. Do not give honey to children younger than 1 years old, as it may lead to botulism.6

4. Avoid irritants

As mentioned before, even minor exposures to throat irritants that can cause the inflammation of the throat and airway can lead to dry coughs. Avoiding irritants like cigarette smoke, perfumes, or irritating vapors and fumes can keep your throat from getting drier.

5. Taking cough medicines

Over-the-counter medications can help decrease symptoms of upper respiratory infections like coughing.1 Cough medicine syrups and capsules can provide you with relief from dry coughs so you don’t have to worry when you will feel a slew of coughs next. You can try a cough syrup like Robitussin Honey Cough + Chest Congestion DM for dry cough relief.

Use these tips and tricks for dry cough relief. Even if a solution is temporary, you can do what you can to ease any irritating symptoms and support your body with the recovery process. Check out all other Robitussin cough relief products to find the best dry cough relief product for you.

Source Citations:

  1. Learn About Cough. American Lung Association.  Accessed 8/19/2021
  2. When a cough may be more than just a cough. OSF Healthcare.  Accessed 8/19/2021.
  3. Cough. MedlinePlus.  Accessed 8/19/2021.
  4. Do Any Bronchitis Home Remedies Actually Work? Cleveland Clinic.  Accessed 8/19/2021.
  5. Relieving a Cough. University of Michigan Health.  Accessed 8/19/2021.
  6. Botulism. American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed 11/16/23.
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