Recommended Medicines for Treating Dry Cough: Get Relief Fast

Recommended Medicines for Treating Dry Cough: Get Relief Fast

Dry cough, also known as unproductive cough, refers to a cough which does not produce any phlegm. It is often associated with a tickling sensation in the throat. As you may try to alleviate the tickling sensation by coughing, this action of forcefully expelling air can cause the throat to become irritated and dry, leading to a sore throat. Persistent dry cough lasting for more than 3 weeks may also strain the lungs or chest muscles, causing chest pain. While a dry cough may precipitate chest pain, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any sudden chest pain, as it could also be a sign of a heart attack.

While cough may seem like a minor inconvenience, persistent cough may be associated with impairments in daily activities, negatively impacting quality of life, and even predicting the progression of lung disease, respiratory hospitalisations, and mortality. Hence, it is important to seek effective treatment for relief.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive understanding of dry cough and effective management.

Understanding Dry Cough

Coughs can last from days to months. They can be categorized as such:

1. Acute

  • Typically result from infections
  • Lasts from days to less than 3 weeks
  • Examples include viral upper respiratory tract infection, acute bronchitis and pneumonia
2. Subacute
  • May involve persistent inflammation following an acute illness
  • Lasts from 3 to 8 weeks
  • Examples include postinfectious cough and exacerbations of underlying conditions like asthma
3. Chronic 
  • Often involve ongoing, long-term issues
  • Lasts over 8 weeks
  • Examples include upper airway cough syndrome, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and medication-induced cough

Differentiating the 2 main types of cough may also help identify the treatment strategy that should be adopted.


Dry Cough

Productive Cough

Presence of phlegm

Absence of phlegm 

Presence of phlegm

Nature of cough

Often persistent, tickly and irritating

Intermittent coughing upon irritation from phlegm build-up


Underlying causes of dry cough

There are several causes of dry cough and understanding these is essential for appropriate management. Causes of dry cough include:

1. Viral infections

A common symptom of viral infections is cough. These infections cause inflammation and irritate cough receptors, and in the absence of phlegm, produces a dry and irritating cough. Often, cough is also accompanied by:

  • Headache
  • Low grade fever
  • Body aches and pain

2. Allergies

A chronic dry cough may be a result of allergies. This is especially so if you experience cough during specific seasons of the year or when you are exposed to certain environments. Cough caused by allergens are often also associated with:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Itch (skin, eyes, nose)

3. Irritants

A cough can also develop when irritants trigger the nerve endings of cough receptors. These irritants may include:

  • Cold air
  • Dust 
  • Smoke
  • Fumes
  • Vapors

Importance of Effective Treatment

Risks associated with untreated dry cough

While cough can be self-limiting, delaying appropriate management of dry cough may sometimes result in severe health consequences. Risks associated with untreated dry cough include:

1. Exacerbation of underlying conditions

Dry cough may be a manifestation of underlying conditions, including asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Research has also found that chronic cough in asthma resulted in increased airway inflammation and obstruction, leading to a vicious cycle of worsening both conditions.

2. Disruption of sleep and daily activities

Studies have shown chronic cough contributes to impaired work productivity and daily activity. According to Harvard Health Publishing, it may disrupt sleep, leading to fatigue and consequently hindering concentration and productivity.

3. Potential complications

Prolonged cough causes detrimental complications and negatively impacts one’s quality of life. The persistent cough could lead to the development of sore throat and also potentially cause strain on one’s lungs and chest muscles, causing chest discomfort and tightness.

Benefits of seeking timely treatment for symptomatic relief

It is important to seek timely treatment for symptom relief to alleviate discomfort and irritation. In addition, promptly addressing cough brings about significant improvements in quality of life and is paramount to preventing any potential complications, as mentioned above. Appropriate treatment leads to faster recovery and hastens your return to normal daily activities. Overall, it can enhance general health and well-being, expediting the journey towards restoring productivity.

Recommended Medicines for Treating Dry Cough

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Cough Medications

To symptomatically address dry cough, Glovida-Rx offers several types of OTC medications that are conveniently available for self-medication. Common ingredients that are present in OTC cough products include herbal ingredients like ivy leaf (Hedera helix) and marshmallow root extract (Althaea officinalis).

While the exact mechanism is unknown, ivy leaf is postulated to help relieve inflammation and muscle spasms associated with cough. It also improves sleep quality and reduces cough-related sleep disturbance.

Marshmallow root extract is believed to be effective in dry cough by forming a protective film on the inflamed mucosa and soothing the irritation of the mucous system.

Examples of OTC medications include:

    1. Sambucol Kids Black Elderberry Cough Relief

      Containing black elderberry and ivy leaf, Sambucol Kids Black Elderberry Cough Relief effectively soothes cough and supports immune health. In addition, it is suitable for children due to its pleasant taste and immune-boosting properties.

      2. Abrilar Syrup

      Abrilar syrup contains ivy leaf dry extract and is indicated for respiratory tract inflammation accompanied by coughing and chronic respiratory inflammatory diseases.

      3. DURO-TUSS® Herbal Dry Cough Liquid

      DURO-TUSS® Herbal Dry Cough Liquid contains marshmallow root extract which is effective for relieving dry cough and protecting the airways, as well as soothing an irritated and scratchy throat.

      4. Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang Capsules

      Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang is a Chinese Proprietary Medicine containing a comprehensive list of natural ingredients. Benefits include but are not limited to removing toxins, discharging heat, improving gaseous exchange, reducing cough and headache, as well as relieving dry and sore throat.

      Effectiveness of various classes of medications

      To understand the effectiveness of the various classes of medications indicated for dry cough, it is paramount to understand how they work. Common classes of medications for dry cough include:

      1. Antitussives

      Antitussives, also known as cough suppressants, are medications which act by inhibiting the cough center in the brain, decreasing the sensitivity of cough receptors and elevating the threshold for cough. Antitussives are generally recommended for short-term relief of cough symptoms. They are indicated for dry, hacking, non-productive cough that interrupts rest and sleep.

      Antihistamines, specifically the older first-generation antihistamines, effectively relieve cough by inhibiting cough reflex sensitivity. While the exact mechanism in which it works is not clear, it is postulated that the antitussive effects of antihistamines may be attributed to the suppression of respiratory reflex and hence cough. As these first-generation antihistamines are primarily used to treat allergies, it is useful to note their sedative side effects.

      2. Chinese herbal medicines

      Research has shown that Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) containing herbal remedies typically contain compounds that exert antitussive, expectorant, and immunomodulatory effects. Similar to Western medications, they are effective in suppressing cough reflexes, alleviating airway inflammation, and helping loosen phlegm if present.

      Spotlighting Pharmacy medications available

      In addition to OTC medications, you may consult our pharmacists at Glovida-Rx should you have any enquiries or require Pharmacy medications that may be more suitable for severe and persistent dry cough, such as:

      1. Tussidex Forte Linctus

      Containing the main active ingredient, dextromethorphan, a non-narcotic antitussive, Tussidex Forte Linctus effectively relieves resistant dry cough. It is non-sedative, alcohol and sugar-free and comes in Sarsaparilla flavor. Tussidex Forte Linctus may result in side effects including dizziness, headache, nausea, nervousness or difficulty sleeping.

      2. Cough-en Linctus

      Cough-en Linctus comprises three main active ingredients: dextromethorphan, triprolidine, and pseudoephedrine. This convenient 3-in-1 blackcurrant-flavored formula contains an antitussive, antihistamine, and nasal decongestant, effectively relieving dry, irritating cough, runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, and itchy and watery eyes. Some common side effects of Cough-en Linctus include drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, and urinary retention.

      3. Tussils 5 Cough Relief Lozenges

      Tussils 5 lozenges contain the cough suppressant, dextromethorphan. It relieves dry, tickly coughs. In addition, these lozenges also soothe your throat and reduce the urge to cough. Some side effects which you may experience with Tussils 5 lozenges include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

      Advice for Fast Relief

      Tips and Lifestyle Advice for managing dry cough at home

      While medications may quickly relieve dry cough, it is also important to incorporate lifestyle changes to alleviate symptoms and promote healing. You may try incorporating the following:

      1. Humidification

      Low humidity is associated with increased occurrence of respiratory tract infections which can cause dry cough. Hence, using humidifiers can help increase moisture content and soothe irritated airways.

      2. Hydration

      Drinking water is important to prevent dehydration and keep your throat moist and less prone to irritation. It also assists with thinning mucus, easing the clearance of your airways.

      3. Avoidance of irritants

      Avoiding throat irritants such as dust, smoke, fumes, and vapors may prevent your throat from becoming drier and reduce inflammation that causes dry cough.

      4. Honey

      It is postulated that in addition to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, honey's high viscosity helps coat and soothe the throat, reducing the urge to cough.

      When to seek medical attention for persistent or severe dry cough

      While dry cough can be managed by adopting the above lifestyle changes and utilizing the medications available, it is vital to know when to seek medical attention. If a cough lasts for a period of longer than 2 weeks and is worsening or does not seem to be improving despite efforts to manage it, please seek advice from a doctor.

      In addition, if you experience any of the following, please seek immediate medical attention:

      • Breathlessness
      • Prolonged or high fever
      • Chest pain
      • Unintentional weight loss
      • Drenching night sweats
      • Coughing up blood
      • Difficulty swallowing
      • Inhalation of foreign particles
      • Mental status change


      Dry cough can be bothersome and sometimes even debilitating. It can be caused by several factors, including viral infections, allergies and irritants. As such, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the condition so as to manage it properly. The importance of adopting a proactive approach to managing your health cannot be overstated.

      Glovida-Rx: Your Partner in Health

      If you are experiencing a dry cough, do not hesitate to reach out to our pharmacists who possess the expertise to assess and recommend appropriate medications and supplements to improve your symptoms and general well-being. At Glovida-Rx, we offer free consultations and seamless medication delivery to your doorstep. Reach us at +65 8101 5555 now!


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