Before you can get rid of a tickly cough, you need to understand why you have one. Sometimes described as a dry cough, a tickly cough occurs when you have irritation of the throat without coughing up what’s known as mucus or phlegm.
This type of cough is called a ‘non-productive cough’ because the cough reflex does not serve a purpose, but is instead a symptom of the irritation. All that dry coughing can in turn cause aches and pains, which makes for a very annoying cough indeed!
What causes a tickly cough?
There are lots of potential causes of a tickly cough, the most common of which are cold and flu. These can cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, irritation and soreness.
Another common and often overlooked cause of a dry tickly cough is hayfever. In hayfever sufferers, the body reacts to the presence of pollen by producing histamine, which triggers the cough reflex and causes irritation of the tissue at the back of the throat. Other allergies can provoke a similar reaction too, so a cough that returns on a regular basis may be caused by an allergy.
How to treat a tickly cough
Treatment for a dry cough generally focusses on soothing the irritated tissue of the throat and the cause of the cough reflex. For those with a cold, drinking plenty of fluids and taking painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help, and a dry cough medicine that suppresses the cough reflex may also help ease discomfort.
Along with throat pastilles and dry cough medicine, sufferers may want to try home remedies such as drinking a mixture of water, honey and lemon, though honey should not be given to children under the age of one. For coughs caused by allergies, antihistamines can provide relief from the cause of the cough.
Warning signs to watch out for
Young children under the age of six should not be given over the counter cough medicine, and those who are older should do so on the advice of doctors or pharmacists only. If you or someone you are caring for coughs up blood or suffers any additional alarming symptoms such as weight loss, wheeziness or shortness of breath, you should contact a medical professional immediately.
Generally speaking, you should be able to get rid of a tickly cough within a few weeks. If a cough of any kind lasts for three weeks are more, you are advised to see your GP to check if the cause behind it is more serious than a virus.
Think you have a cold? We’ll be tackling the tricky topic of the cold very soon on the blog. You can find additional information about colds and flu in adults and colds and flu in children in our A-Z directory and you’ll find medicines to treat the symptoms of cough, colds and flu here.