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How to Relieve a Dry Hacking Cough

Unlike productive coughs--coughs that can be helpful by bringing mucus up and out of the lungs, dry hacking coughs tend to needlessly irritate your throat and lungs, causing tickling and burning sensations that can make your days difficult and your nights sleepless. Fortunately, there exist many practical methods for relief, which can be done both with your physician's help, as well as at home to relieve this difficult type of cough.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Take your cough suppressant as directed by the label if you purchased it over-the-counter, or according to your physician's orders if you are taking a prescription medication. When selecting a cough medication, choose one that functions as a suppressant, rather than an expectorant--suppressants work better to control dry hacking coughs, reports Harvard University 2. Look for the active ingredient dextromethorphan, the primary over-the-counter cough suppressant.

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Use cough drops regularly throughout the day, or, if you have an aversion to the taste of cough drops, MedlinePlus recommends hard candy as a substitute 1. Both cough drops and hard candy, such as peppermints, will accomplish the same goal towards relieving a dry hacking cough, which is keeping your salivary glands productive, and is crucial to lubricating the throat and, hence, preventing the irritation caused by dry coughs.

Sip a "hot toddy" to ease the miseries of a dry hacking cough, especially before bed. Combine 1 tsp. of lemon juice and 1 to 2 tbsp. of honey, according to your personal taste, in 8 to 12 oz. of hot water in a tall mug to make this natural, dry hacking cough-relieving brew. Add the tea of your choice if desired--preferably a decaffeinated or herbal blend to avoid excessive caffeine consumption.

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Elevate your head at bedtime by packing an extra pillow or two behind your head and neck. Keeping your head elevated while sleeping at night or during daytime naps is crucial in helping to relieve dry hacking coughs, as well as instrumental in getting you the sleep your body needs to fight off the cough and its cause.

Drink plenty of clear, healthy fluids, such as water, fruit juice or hot tea, while you are dealing with a dry hacking cough. These will keep your body hydrated, and hydration is the enemy of all things dry--even a cough. Also, use a humidifier or vaporizer to keep the air moist in the room where you sleep.


If your cough produces blood, contact your physician immediately.

Never exceed the recommended dose of a cough suppressant medication.