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Tickly cough

Tickly coughs are most often caused by cold or flu viruses.

An introduction from Dr. Jen Tan

Tickly coughs are closely related to dry coughs. These terms are used interchangeably and both these types of coughs may be referred to as dry tickly coughs. Read about the causes, symptoms and treatments for a tickly cough below:

What is a tickly cough?

As tickly coughs and dry coughs do not produce mucus, they are known as non-productive coughs, distinct from chesty coughs where mucus is produced when coughing.

Tickly coughs result from an irritation in the throat (pharynx) and the cough is triggered to relieve this feeling of irritation.

What causes a tickly cough?

Tickly coughs are most commonly caused by cold and flu viruses.

We pick these viruses up mainly via our hands. These are then transferred to our noses and mouths before travelling to the back of our throat and upper airways (pharynx and larynx).

If our immune system is not able to overcome this infection, viruses enter the tissues of the upper airways, causing inflammation.

Unlike infection further down the respiratory tract, infection of the upper airways does not produce an excessive amount of mucus. However, what it does do is irritate the nerves lining the area, triggering the cough reflex. Tickly coughs can linger days or weeks after the infection appears to have resolved.

Tickly coughs can be triggered by pollution, a smoky atmosphere or cold air. This is because the particles in the air you breathe are trapped by the mucous lining of your throat, causing irritation and the need to cough.

Hayfever can also cause tickly coughs. The body reacts to the presence of pollen by releasing large amounts of the chemical histamine. This causes inflammation of the respiratory tracts, potentially leading to a tickly cough.

Symptoms of a tickly cough

Tickly coughs are most often caused by viral infections and they will probably be accompanied by other symptoms of the common cold or flu  such as an itch at the back of the throat, sneezing or a runny nose.

However, other symptoms may accompany a tickly cough:

  • Sore throat  – this is because the action of coughing is harsh on the tissues of your throat
  • Muscular pain in the chest or abdomen – this arises as frequent coughing can strain your abdominal muscles as they contract
  • Sensitivity to other irritants – exposure to irritants such as pollen or cigarette smoke can make your cough worse.

Remedies for a tickly cough

A tickly cough caused by cold or flu viruses is simply a symptom of the infection, so the first thing to do is to treat the cold or flu. For instance, research has shown that the herb echinacea reduces the severity of symptoms as well as the number of illness days. It does this by helping to maintain the body’s resistance by strengthening the immune system.

There are a number of specific treatments for a tickly cough including:

  • Conventional medicines such as cough suppressants to reduce the activity of the cough reflex
  • Herbal remedies, such as extracts of spruce or pine shoots, have been used traditionally to help tickly coughs
  • Home remedies such as honey soothe the lining of the tissues at the back of the throat.

TIP: Read why so many recommend Bronchosan Cough Syrup for tickly coughs

It is unlikely that antibiotics will help people suffering from a tickly cough as these drugs only work on bacteria and most tickly coughs are the result of viral infections. Antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor if an underlying lung condition or a ‘secondary’ bacterial infection is present.

Follow the link for more information on remedies for coughs.

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