Coughing cleanses the respiratory tract
It sounds like a bark, often comes in attacks, and makes a restful sleep impossible: a dry cough is annoying. Most people have had it in tandem with a cold or flu. Normally, however, after a few days, this dry cough turns into a cough that expels phlegm from the body – a protective reflex that cleans the respiratory tract and helps it to recover. Doctors refer to this as a productive cough.
A dry cough is a non-productive cough
A dry cough, on the other hand, is defined as a non-productive cough. It no longer contributes to recovery and can even be harmful to the mucous membranes.
While productive coughing should not be suppressed, it makes sense to stop or at least contain a dry cough. Alongside some over-the-counter products from the pharmacy or drugstore, household remedies are popular. Whether they work has not been conclusively proven in all cases. Nevertheless, they're worth a try – and if they actually help, all the better.
Household remedies against persistent dry coughs
Home-made onion juice is the classic remedy par excellence for a dry cough. It is said to kill germs and relieve inflammation. Cut an onion into small pieces and bring it to the boil with rock sugar. Leave to stand for a while, pour through a cloth and take several spoonfuls a day as cough syrup. Honey can be used in place of rock candy. Mix a chopped onion with the honey, let it stand overnight, then pass through a sieve.
Honey has proven to be a good remedy for coughs and is also beneficial mixed into warm milk.
When children have a dry cough, honey can be a help too. But caution is advised as honey is not suitable for children under 12 months, as it can cause a bacterial infection (baby botulism).
Drink, drink, drink: medicinal plant teas containing mucilage have an anti-inflammatory and soothing effect. Well-known examples are marshmallow root, Icelandic moss, malva and ribwort. The teas lend themselves to both drinking and gargling.
Inhaling with a sage infusion also soothes irritated mucous membranes. If you don't have an inhaler with a mouth-nose attachment, follow the traditional method: fill a firmly placed bowl or pot with hot water and add sage teabags or leaves. Put your head under a towel and enjoy the soothing steam bath.
Dry heating air can make a dry cough even worse at night. For this reason, make sure there is enough humidity in the bedroom, by placing a bowl of water on the heater, for example.
Keep the bedroom well ventilated, cool and free of dust.
Sleep with the upper body raised.
N.B.: Household remedies can certainly help cure a dry cough and alleviate symptoms. But:
- with children, parents should seek medical advice beforehand.
- Sufferers should also see a doctor if the dry cough lasts longer than a week and they have a high temperature.
- Besides colds, other diseases such as asthma, bronchitis or laryngitis can be the causes of a dry cough.
Causes of a dry cough
An oncoming cold or flu is the most common cause of a dry cough, because pathogens attack the mucous membranes. By coughing, our body tries to get rid of the pathogens. In addition, irritation of the lower respiratory tract, such as the larynx, trachea or lungs, can also be the cause of a dry cough. Other causes are foreign bodies in the respiratory tract, an inflammation of the respiratory tract or inhaled pollutants such as smoke, gas, dust or chemicals.