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What Is a Dry Cough?

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on August 11, 2023

A dry cough is one of the first symptoms of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an often-deadly illness that stems from exposure to the mineral asbestos. Detecting mesothelioma early can lead to prompt treatment, better quality of living and possibly a prolonged life. Differentiating a dry cough from a wet cough and knowing when to see a doctor could help you diagnose mesothelioma as quickly as possible. If you or a family member are experiencing a dry cough and have received a mesothelioma diagnosis, consider speaking with a qualified New York mesothelioma lawyer for help building a claim.

Do You Have a Dry Cough?

A dry cough is a cough without any mucus or phlegm produced. A dry cough can feel rasping or tickling in the throat. It can be an irritating condition associated with allergies, a cold, the flu, bronchitis or pneumonia. More serious conditions can also cause a dry cough, such as mesothelioma, pleural effusions (fluid buildup around the lungs), tumors in the chest cavity and cancer treatments. If you are producing or dislodging phlegm when you cough, you do not have a dry cough. If you do have a dry cough, keep tabs on it to make sure it does not turn into something worse. A lasting dry cough could be a sign of a serious illness.

Early Stages of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma can have different symptoms depending on the type of disease. A dry cough and respiratory issues are common signs of pleural mesothelioma, or cancer of the lining of the lungs (the pleura). Typically, patients with peritoneal mesothelioma (cancer in the lining of the abdomen) do not experience dry cough unless the cancer moves to the chest cavity. Dry cough is one of the earliest signs of pleural mesothelioma.

  • Dry or raspy cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Chest infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever

Mesothelioma can cause a dry cough by swelling or thickening the lining of the lungs, pressing inward on the lungs and making it more difficult to breathe. This can trigger a dry cough and other respiratory problems. Pleural mesothelioma can also lead to chest infections such as pneumonia. Dry cough is also a symptom associated with pneumonia. A consistent dry cough can further irritate and inflame the tissues of the lungs, worsening the cough.

When to See a Doctor

A dry cough might be something to worry about if it is persistent and does not go away after a few days. A dry cough associated with a less serious condition will typically dissipate within a few days or a week. If your dry cough lasts longer, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition. See a doctor for a dry cough that lasts more than a week or two. Some patients wait months with a dry cough before seeing a doctor. If you have mesothelioma, waiting too long can allow the cancer to spread and worsen. Visit a doctor as soon as you realize a dry cough is not going away.

While a dry cough alone is not enough to diagnose mesothelioma, it could be an early sign of something wrong. Combined with a history of asbestos exposure and other symptoms of the disease, such as a fever or chest pain, it could be enough for a doctor to test for mesothelioma. Note that mesothelioma treatments and other cancer treatments can also cause a dry cough. In this case, it is usually temporary. Radiation therapy intensifies symptoms.

Treating Dry Cough With Mesothelioma

If a doctor diagnoses you with mesothelioma, treatments may be available to help with your persistent dry cough and other symptoms. Palliative procedures to relieve pressure on the lungs, sitting/sleeping in different positions, remedies such as cough drops or a humidifier, or surgery may give you a better quality of living. See a doctor right away if you have a lasting dry cough or other potential symptoms of mesothelioma. Prompt treatment could help you deal with symptoms and potentially prolong your life.

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