What is a dry cough?

What is a dry cough?

A cough is a reflex that clears the airways of secretions and irritants such as smoke, dust and allergens. A cough can be classified as a dry or chesty cough. A dry cough is an unproductive cough where there is no mucus present. A chesty cough is a productive cough where there is mucus or phlegm present.1,2

For more information on chesty coughs click here.

What is a dry cough?

What causes a dry cough?

A dry cough may be caused by:

  • A upper respiratory tract infection, such as the common cold
  • Allergies
  • Respiratory tract irritants such as dust, smoke, or air pollution
  • Change in temperature2

Do I have a dry cough?

Identifying the type of cough you have is an important step in getting the right treatment. A dry cough can also be described as non-productive, tight, tickly and irritating.2 Some symptoms associated with dry coughs include:

  • Nagging tickle in the airways
  • No mucus associated with the cough
  • The cough sounds dry
  • May get worse at night and impact sleep quality2

If you have different symptoms you may have a chesty cough.

How to treat a dry cough?

For a dry cough, the aim is to reduce cough symptoms and to identify and treat the underlying cause of the dry cough.A cough suppressant such as pholcodine or dextromethorphan may be used to reduce the urge to cough.2

Pholcodine is a cough suppressant used in dry cough formulations to help stop stubborn, dry, tickly coughs. Pholcodine works on the cough centre in the brain to suppress the cough reflex and stop coughing.4

Dextromethorphan is also a cough suppressant, which acts on the cough control centre to provide soothing relief from dry, irritating coughs.5


Merck Manual (2018), Cough in Adults, www.merckmanuals.com/home/lung-and-airway-disorders/symptoms-of-lung-disorders/cough-in-adults

2 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (2015), Treating Coughs and Colds, inPharmation, 16:4: 1-19.

3 E Medicine Health (2018), Coughs, https://www.emedicinehealth.com/coughs/article_em.htm#cough_definition_and_facts

4 Bisolvon Pholcodine Dry Forte CMI June 2017

5 Bisolvon Dry Oral Liquid CMI August 2017




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