Dry vs Wet Coughs: What Are The Differences & How To Get Rid of Them?

"The simplest way to determine whether your cough is a dry or a wet one is the presence of mucus."
Coughing is a vital reflex that protects your airways and lungs from irritants, but it can also take a toll on your body and signal that you have a cold or flu. While there are many different types of coughs and many reasons why you may have one, the two most common are wet and dry coughs. Read on to learn how to distinguish one from the other and explore treatment options for your distinct cough.

Dry Coughs With Chest Tightness

Dry coughs are coughs that do not produce mucus. If you have a dry cough, you might experience tickling at the back of your throat and develop a sore throat from consistent attempts to clear your airways. A dry cough might also cause chest tightness if your coughing is vigorous or if it lasts longer than three weeks. There are many different reasons you might develop a dry cough. These reasons include: 
  • Recovery from a cold or flu
  • COVID-19
  • Allergies or asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Croup
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Side effects of certain medications like high blood pressure medication
  • Smoking
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Pneumonia
  • Whooping cough
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a dry, chronic cough can be a sign of a more serious problem such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, sleep apnea, or tuberculosis.1 You should contact your doctor right away if you cough up blood, have difficulty breathing, hear wheezing, or have sudden, unexplained chest pain.  

Wet Coughs With Mucus

Also known as a productive cough, a wet cough is a cough that produces mucus, or phlegm. If you have a wet cough, you may feel like you have something stuck at the back of your throat or in your chest and you might even cough up mucus into your mouth. Wet coughs are often worse at night when you lie down, allowing mucus to settle at the back of your throat. Like dry coughs, there are many reasons why you might have a wet cough with mucus. These reasons include: Like dry coughs, a wet cough can also be a sign of a more serious condition, especially if it lasts longer than two weeks. These serious conditions include COPD, congestive heart failure, and bronchiectasis. Call your doctor if you experience wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, swelling of the legs or feet, or if you cough up blood.
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How to Distinguish Your Cough

The simplest way to determine whether your cough is a dry or a wet one is the presence of mucus. If you are coughing up mucus or you hear crackling in the lungs, you likely have a wet cough. You should be aware that serious conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia might produce a crackling sound in the lungs, and these conditions should be addressed by a doctor.2 If your cough is not producing mucus and you feel a constant tickle at the back of your throat, then you are probably suffering from a dry cough. This is one of the most common features of COVID-19, so you should visit your doctor and get tested if you feel you have been exposed to the virus.

Treatment Options: Relieving Your Cough’s Symptoms 

After ruling out serious conditions with your doctor, here are some treatment options you should consider to ease your dry or wet cough.  If you have a dry or persistent cough:  
  • Use a humidifier: Dry air can irritate inflamed throat tissue and make your dry cough worse. Use a humidifier to help lubricate your airways.
  • Drink hot liquids: From chamomile tea to chicken broth, hot liquids will help to add moisture to irritated and inflamed airways and calm the cough reflex.
  • Take a cough suppressant: Speaking of the cough reflex, why not stop it at its source? Brillia Health Cough Control uses targeted antibodies to quickly ease the intensity and frequency of all types of coughs and reduce fluid build up in the lungs. It works with your body to support the immune system, gently and impactfully relieving cough symptoms without harsh synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects.   
  • Try honey: Honey has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe your dry throat. In a study of the sweet substance’s effect on coughing, honey was proven to be as effective as a common cough suppressant ingredient, dextromethorphan.3 
  • Avoid irritants, including smoke: Smoking is a huge contributor to dry, hacking coughs. Avoid smoking and other irritants like strong perfumes and cleaning products that can enter your respiratory system and trigger the cough reflex further.  
If you have a wet cough:
  • Use steam: Take a steamy shower or bath or hold your head over a bowl of hot water (carefully) to breathe in steam. This can help loosen up mucus so you can productively expel it from your system. 
  • Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is crucial for your overall health and it is even more crucial when you’re battling a cold or flu. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids, including soothing hot drinks or soups, to replace lost liquids from fevers and keep your cough productive.
  • Gargle with salt water: Salt water can help reduce phlegm and mucus in the back of the throat which can ease your need to cough. Just be careful not to swallow. 
  • Elevate your head at night: Getting quality sleep is essential to recovering from a cold or flu, but it may be difficult to fall asleep if you’re suffering from a cough. When you lie down flat, mucus pools at the back of your throat, triggering your cough reflex. Try elevating your head at night to allow your mucus to drain so you can get better sleep. 
  • Take a cough suppressant or cold/flu medicine: In addition to Brillia Health Cough Control, which helps to ease both wet and dry coughs, Brillia Health Cold-Flu Recovery will help to address multiple symptoms. If you are suffering from a cough in addition to a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, and throat pain, our Cold-Flu Recovery formulation will help you feel better faster with no off-target side effects. Since the products contain no harsh chemicals, they can also be safely taken together for a more well-rounded approach to reducing your symptoms. 
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Find even more resources on managing your wet or dry cough at the Brillia Health blog.
References: 1https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21888-dry-cough-and-chest-tightness, 2https://www.healthline.com/health/bibasilar-crackles#causes, 3https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18056558/

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