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Cough Symptoms: Dry Cough vs. Wet Cough

It can be a mild nuisance such as a tickle in your throat or something more serious like a wet cough that makes it painful to breathe properly.  Coughing is the body’s reaction to a foreign object in the lungs, whether it is dust, mucous or another object.  If you have chest congestion, coughing is your body’s way to help get it out of your lungs.  There are many different types of coughs, and each is distinct enough to help indicate what illness you have and when to seek treatment from your healthcare provider.

A dry cough could be allergies, cold or flu symptoms or the beginning of bronchitis.  For a dry, tickling cough, try cough drops or hard candy, but never give these to a child under age 3 as they may cause choking.  You can also try using a vaporizer or take a steamy shower. Both methods increase the moisture in the air and can help soothe a dry throat.

A wet cough that produces mucus or phlegm can indicate something more serious like pneumonia or full on-set bronchitis.  Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin the mucus in your throat and make it easier to cough it up.  A humidifier is another great option to help relieve coughing and break up chest congestion.

Any time you are concerned about your cough, you should consult your health care provider who can diagnose and help treat your cough with two types of cough medication; expectorants and suppressants.

Expectorants help bring up mucus when you have congestion in your chest and it is not cleared with coughing.  These are the most useful when you have a wet, non productive cough.

If you have a productive cough, it is best not to take medication to suppress it. Suppressants stifle the cough reflex and help you stop coughing.  If you do choose to use a cough suppressant, they should generally only be used at night to help your body sleep and recover.

You should always contact your doctor if you have a cough and any of the following symptoms.

• When cough produces mucous that is yellow, green or tan and has lasted more than a week or is accompanied by a fever.
• When coughing up blood.
• When short of breath and wheezing.
• When accompanied by night sweats or fevers at night.


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