A dry cough is also called an unproductive cough. Unlike productive, wet coughs, dry coughs are unable to remove mucus, phlegm, or irritants from your lungs or nasal passages.
Dry coughs can linger for weeks after you’ve had a cold or the flu. They may also be caused by a number of conditions, such as:
- postnasal drip
- acid reflux or GERD
They may also be a long-lasting side effect from exposure to environmental toxins, such as cigarette smoke.
Dry coughs can be very uncomfortable and may occur in both children and adults. There are a number of clinical treatments you can use to alleviate them, but there are also at-home remedies that can be just as effective in many cases.
Herbs and supplements
At-home remedies for dry cough aren’t one-size-fits-all. You may have to experiment with several before you find the ones that work for you.
In addition, not all of these remedies have been fully researched and proven to be effective. Some treatments are also inappropriate for babies or children.
For adults and children ages 1 and up, honey can be used to treat day and nighttime dry coughing.
Honey has antibacterial properties and can also help to coat the throat, alleviating irritation.
One study in 2007Trusted Source found that honey was more successful than dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant ingredient, for reducing nagging bouts of nighttime coughing in children.
You can try taking honey by the teaspoon several times daily or add it to tea or warm water to drink.
To avoid infant botulism, a rare complication which can occur in infants, never give honey to a child under 1-year-old.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound that may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It may also be beneficial for several conditions, including dry cough.
Curcumin is best absorbed into the bloodstream when taken with black pepper. You can add 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper into a beverage, such as cold orange juice, to drink. You can also make it into warm tea.
Turmeric has been used trusted Source to treat upper respiratory conditions, bronchitis, and asthma in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
Ginger has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been shown a trusted Source to boost the immune system and relieve pain and discomfort.
Ginger can be found in many teas as an ingredient. You can also make ginger tea from the ginger root by steeping the peeled or cut root in warm water. Adding honey may make it even more beneficial for dry cough.
4. Marshmallow root
Marshmallow root is a type of herb. It’s used in cough syrup and in lozenges to soothe a dry cough.
A survey-based study trusted Source found that it’s an effective treatment for soothing the throat and reducing the irritation caused by a dry cough.
Peppermint contains menthol, which helps to numb nerve endings in the throat that become irritated by coughing. This may provide pain relief and reduce the urge to cough.
Peppermint also helps reduce congestion, plus, it’s been found trusted Source to have antibacterial and antiviral qualities.
There are a number of ways to take peppermint. These include drinking peppermint tea or sucking on peppermint lozenges. Try drinking peppermint tea right before bed to help alleviate nighttime coughs.
6. Masala chai tea
The taste of chai tea has become very popular in the United States in recent years. In India, chai is used to treat conditions such as sore throat and dry cough.
Masala chai contains several antioxidant ingredients, including cloves and cardamom. Cloves may also be effective as an expectorant
Capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, has been shown trusted Source to reduce chronic coughing.
While capsaicin can be taken as a capsule, you can also make tea from cayenne pepper hot sauce and warm water.
Cayenne is a type of chili pepper. Add drops of cayenne hot sauce into the water, tasting as you go, so you don’t exceed your threshold for how much heat you can handle. You can also buy chili peppers whole and steep them in warm water.
Other home remedies to try
8. Aromatherapy with eucalyptus
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils to soothe and heal.
Eucalyptus essential oil may help ease dry cough by working as a decongestant. Try adding eucalyptus to a diffuser, spritzer, or inhaler. You can also add a few drops to hot water in a bowl and inhale the steam.
Scenting your room with eucalyptus may help you get a better night’s sleep if nighttime coughing has been keeping you awake.
9. Use a humidifier
Dry air can aggravate a dry cough. Humidifiers put moisture into the air, which can provide relief.
Humidifiers help open up the sinuses, making them beneficial for nagging postnasal drip.
If your home has dry air, run a humidifier in your bedroom to help reduce dry cough during sleep.
10. Use an air purifier
Air purifiers can help rid your home of airborne irritants, such as dust and smoke. They also reduce allergens, such as pet dander and pollen.
Whether your cough is caused by environmental toxins or an underlying condition, breathing in clean air can help reduce throat irritation and the desire to cough.
11. Gargle with saltwater
Gargling with warm salt water will help ease the discomfort and irritation caused by a dry cough. Saltwater also helps kill bacteria in the mouth and throat.
To do this, dissolve 1 teaspoon of table salt in a large glass of warm water. Then gargle several times a day.
This dry cough remedy isn’t recommended for young children, who might swallow the saltwater.
If you wake up with an irritated throat from coughing during the night, gargle with salt water immediately after brushing your teeth to help numb and soothe the nerve endings in your throat.
12. Antitussive cough syrup
Antitussive cough medications work by diminishing the cough reflex. This alleviates the desire to cough, making them especially beneficial for dry coughs.
Some antitussives contain codeine and are available by prescription only. Others are available over the counter. These typically contain active ingredients, such as dextromethorphan, camphor, or menthol.
13. Cough drops
Cough drops are medicated lozenges designed to lubricate and soothe irritated throat tissues. Their ingredients vary and so do their actions.
Some cough drops contain menthol, which acts as a numbing agent to reduce the urge to cough. You can also find cough drops that contain ginger or eucalyptus.
Where to buy these home remedies
Many of the home remedies above — like honey or salt for rinses — are already in your cupboard at home, but others you may still need to buy. We’ve got you covered with the links below.