What are the most common causes of a chronic dry cough?

A dry, chronic cough can be caused by a variety of things, from lung disease to medications. A persistent cough should be evaluated as it can be a sign of a medical problem, as well as being irritating to the patient. When going to the doctor for a chronic dry cough, provide as much information about the cough as possible. If there is a period of the day when the cough seems to occur more frequently or if a patient has a recent history of illness, these can provide important diagnostic clues.

A common culprit is lung disease or chronic inflammation. Asthma, smoking and numerous respiratory conditions are related to a chronic dry cough. In addition, patients may develop a cough with an infection or a condition called postinfectious cough, where the infection is over and the patient is better, but the cough persists. Coughing can irritate the throat and be self-perpetuating, as irritation leads to coughing to clear the throat, followed by more irritation, and so on.

Certain medications, particularly angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure, can cause a chronic dry cough. Changing or stopping the medication may resolve the problem and make the patient more comfortable. In addition, this type of cough is related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Coughing is sometimes present without the heartburn sensation associated with acid reflux, and may be the most obvious clinical sign of a problem.

Moving to dry weather can cause a person to develop a chronic, hacking cough. As the body adjusts to the change, coughing can be a problem, especially if the area is dusty. Using a humidifier can help with a cough, as well as ease the symptoms of dry skin. Heat is not necessarily a factor; dry, hot climates like the desert are more likely to cause a cough than dry, cold climates like those seen in extreme latitudes. People who continue to cough for several weeks can see a doctor to determine if there is another cause.

Treatments for chronic dry cough may include taking or changing medications, quitting smoking, using humidifiers for climate control, and things like lozenges to treat sore throats. Even if patients are not bothered by a cough, they should see a doctor, as it may be the only noticeable symptom of a more serious problem. Getting cough treatment can prevent future complications and keep patients more comfortable.

Go up