What is a tickly cough?

A tickly cough, also known as a dry or non-productive cough, is not accompanied by mucus and usually occurs after a person is exposed to dust or another irritant. Cough is a symptom of some other disease or problem. Some people may get a tickly cough while recovering from the common cold or flu. Other causes of a tickly cough include asthma, allergies, and certain medications.

In general, there are two types of coughs, those that produce sputum or mucus, which drip from the nasal passages or come out of the lungs, and the tickly cough, which is dry and has a harsh, abrasive sound. When someone coughs, it is because their body is trying to expel an irritating object, such as a piece of dust or a particle of smoke, from the lungs. If dust and debris get into the lungs, bacteria can grow in the lungs and cause a lung infection such as pneumonia.

A tickly cough is a symptom of a type of asthma known as cough-variant asthma (CVA). People who have strokes usually don't have the wheezing or trouble breathing that are commonly associated with the condition. Instead, they suffer from a chronic, hacking cough. For some, the cough is worse at night and can disrupt their sleep.

CVA can be caused by taking beta-blocker medications or exercising. For some, CVA is caused by sinusitis or another upper respiratory infection. A tickly cough caused by asthma can be treated with an albuterol inhaler or by inhaling steroids.

Tickling cough can also be caused by the environment. Climate-controlled dry air, such as that found in air-conditioned or heated offices or homes, can irritate the airways and cause a dry cough. A person who is exposed to chemical dust or fumes at work may also develop a cough. Wearing a mask at work can help prevent or lessen coughing.

A person can treat their cough in various ways. Cough suppressants can be helpful, but they can also cause harm if used in excess. Expectorants used to treat a productive cough will not help a dry cough.

The best way to treat a tickly cough is to soothe and moisturize the airways. A person can try drinking hot water with some honey mixed in or hot tea with honey. Cough drops can also help calm a cough. Someone whose sleep is interrupted by coughing may try elevating her head with an extra pillow or placing a humidifier in her room.

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