What is a dry cough?

A dry cough is a cough that produces little to no mucus. It’s sometimes called a non-productive cough, since you’re not coughing anything up. Even with a dry cough, it’s common to cough up a little spit or mucus--just not a lot.

The opposite of a dry cough is a wet cough. That’s sometimes called a productive cough. With a wet cough, you’re coughing up a large amount of phlegm. Phlegm is mucus produced in your lungs.

Different lung infections cause different kinds of coughs. Dry coughs are associated with viruses. Wet coughs are more likely to be caused by bacteria. Wet coughs can produce different colored mucus, too, like green and yellow.

A dry cough is just one clue your doctor should use to make a diagnosis. Dry cough is a common symptom of COVID-19. But, lots of conditions, like allergies and acid reflux, can cause a dry cough. So if you develop any kind of cough, contact your doctor to discuss the right next steps for you.


Last update: June 24, 2020, 4:33 pm ET

Science review: ERS