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Cold and Flu Center

How to Stop a Dry, Tickling Cough

author image Julie Hampton
Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.
How to Stop a Dry, Tickling Cough
Cigarette smoke is a common cause of a dry cough. Photo Credit Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images

A dry, tickling cough causes unwanted irritation throughout the day. A persistent cough interrupts school, work and even a good night’s rest. The best strategy to stop a dry, tickling cough is to understand what’s causing it. Sometimes the reason is apparent -- dry or dusty air, exposure to cigarette smoke, or allergies -- but sometimes the cough is related to a medical condition or even a prescription medication. A variety of home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can bring relief to your cough, but persistent coughs should be evaluated by your doctor.

Step 1

A dry, tickling cough can be caused by dehydration or dry air, so drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can counter this throat irritation. It may help to drink hot fluids, such as teas, lemon water or broth, and inhale the steam created by the hot beverage while drinking. Carry a water bottle throughout the day as a reminder to drink liquids.

Step 2

If the cough is caused by dry air, adding humidity to your home air may help. Turn on a humidifier in common areas such as a bedroom or living room. Take a long shower or bath, breathing in the moist air to help soothe your cough. Another way to inhale moist air is by steaming your face. Place a bowl of steamy, hot water on a table and place your face about 8 to 12 inches from the surface. Cover your head with a towel to create a tent and trap the moist air. Relax and inhale the steam.

Step 3

If your dry, tickling cough is caused by exposure to smoke, excessive dust or other airborne triggers, take steps to reduce or eliminate your exposure to these substances. Alternatively, if the cause of your cough is asthma or allergies, see your doctor for treatment recommendations, or follow your treatment plan if you already have one.

Step 4

OTC medications and home treatments can help minimize or stop your coughing. Honey may help reduce the tickle that triggers the cough. A July 2010 report published in “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” demonstrated that one-half teaspoon of honey taken at bedtime alleviated coughs better than OTC cough suppressants. Cough lozenges or hard candies can also help counter the dry, tickling cough. If needed, you can also try OTC cough suppressants, also known as antitussives -- which suppress your cough reflex. Antitussives are also available combined with expectorants, which thin the mucus, although this combination is not needed if your cough is dry. If your cough is being triggered by postnasal drip, short-term use of a decongestant can help.

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