A cough is a reflexive maneuver of the body that is caused involuntarily, to send out any fluids or irritants (foreign particles) from the throat.
When coughing, the body inhales and then forces an exhalation in quick succession, against the closed glottis. With the release of air and the glottis opening, the throat produces a sound that we know as coughing.
Coughing is one of the most common medical complaints for which people consult a medical health practitioner. The purpose of this reflex action is to obstruct irritants or allergens, which enter the respiratory tract and expel them out.
Your state of well-being and quality of life becomes affected if a dry cough becomes sub-acute or chronic.
Dry Cough Allergies
When your body is not producing mucus, and yet if coughing persists, it is known as a dry cough. This is mostly caused by the allergens present in your immediate environment, that can cause inflammation or irritation of the pharynx—the rear region of the throat.
Allergies are the most common cause of a chronic cough in almost all medical cases, except for people who smoke. When allergy causing irritants are removed from your environment, and if your exposure to their presence is decreased, the dry cough can be relieved. This type of a cough has a characteristic sound that is intense and forceful and lasts for a few minutes to days.
You are at risk of developing dry cough allergies if:
- You have a family/hereditary history of having allergies
- You have a sensitive skin
- You have periodic bouts of coughing that extend and go away with/without treatment
Dry cough allergies involve the release of a chemical called histamine, that is formed as a part of your body’s immune response to an allergen/irritant.
The overall reaction of your body to any allergen consists of an itchy throat, coughing, sneezing and runny eyes.
These common allergens could be:
- Tree and flower pollens
- Grass and weed pollens
- Dust Mites
- Animal dander —hair/fur/feathers
There are also certain triggers in the atmosphere, which could worsen your dry cough allergies like:
- Sudden temperature variations (from hot to cold or vice versa)
- Cigarette, wood or incense smoke
- Pollution Particles
- Chemicals, perfumes, colognes, and hairsprays
- Increased humidity levels in the air
Diagnosis & Treatment
To check whether your dry cough is due to allergies, your doctor might suggest a skin test, followed by a confirmatory blood test, to look for the presence of antibodies called Immunoglobulin E.
Treatment options could be in the form of medications, home remedies, or alternative therapies.
Antihistamines: The allergen fighting chemical—histamine, causes swelling of the nasal tract and the throat lining. This swelling leads to a dry cough and other allergy associated reactions in the body, like runny eyes and itchy rashes (hives).
Antihistamines work towards blocking the release of histamines by inhibiting the activity of the histamine receptors. It binds histamine and alleviates the swelling flare up response. Their anti-inflammatory properties help in bringing down coughing and avoid frequent episodes from recurring.
Some of the few antihistamines that your healthcare provider may recommend are—cetirizine (Zyrtec), diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or fexofenadine (Allegra).
Immunotherapy: This treatment involves injecting allergens into your body to bring down the symptoms, created by your body’s immune response. The idea is to make your body resistant to the allergen that causes a dry cough.
The allergen content in each dose of the injection is increased with every session you have with your doctor, over the course of a few months.
Once this build-up phase is complete, you get a fixed dosage for next four to six months. Changes in your allergic responses can be seen after a year of immunotherapy.
Your dry cough condition can be brought under control and prevented, by increasing your immunity to allergens. You can do so by making use of simple condiments that you can find in your kitchen.
- Turmeric: Adding a spoon of turmeric to a glass of warm milk helps in soothing the irritation.
- Spices: Cloves, cinnamon and liquorice can be taken as a tea, or ingested raw with warm water. They are great in increasing your immune levels that help to fight dry cough symptoms naturally.
- Ginger and honey: Ginger is a powerful immune booster, and honey carries warmth. When infused together they work at keeping the throat irritant free and reduce inflammation of the tissue lining.
- Basil/Tulsi: Tulsi leaves carry potent antibacterial properties. They are rich in antioxidants, and that is why they are useful in keeping your dry cough in check.
As allergy medications can cause side effects like drowsiness, dry mouth, and weight gain, many people are turning towards treating their symptoms with natural therapies.
Some of the tested and proven therapies include—acupuncture, probiotics, and nasal saline irrigation. They are useful measures in managing dry cough and other allergy symptoms.