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Wheezing Dry Cough

Wheezing Dry Cough

Wheezing and dry coughs are separate symptoms that can arise from a variety of respiratory ailments. If a wheezing dry cough occurs all at once, that may be a sign of a serious health problem and medical care should be sought out. Read on to learn more about wheezing dry cough.


Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling or rattling sound during breathing (particularly during an exhale) as a result of constricted or inflamed airways. Wheezes are usually audible to the naked ear, but sometimes they can only be heard with a stethoscope.

Wheezing symptoms can be caused by:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) particularly during a respiratory infection
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchiolitis or bronchitis
  • Heart failure
  • Allergic reactions e.g insect stings
  • Foreign objects in the airways
  • Pneumonia
  • Smoking
  • Aspirin, or other medicines
  • Sleep apnea
  • Lung cancer
  • GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease)


A cough is very common and is one of the most frequent reasons for a doctor visit. Although a cough can be irritating and uncomfortable, it is actually a helpful reflex. Despite this, a cough may be a sign of a larger problem.

Frequent triggers of a short term cough include:

  • Upper and lower respiratory tract infections (caused by a virus, e.g. the common cold or influenza)
  • Postnasal drip
  • Allergies (e.g. allergic rhinitis)
  • Acid reflux
  • Irritants (e.g. smoke, vapors, mold, or others)
  • Lung clot
  • Lung collapse
  • Heart failure
  • GERD

Triggers of chronic coughs include:

  • COPD
  • Asthma
  • Lung infections (e.g. tuberculosis)
  • Lung cancer

Dry Coughs

Some coughs produce fluids such as a "productive cough" (coughing up phlegm) or hemoptysis (coughing up blood). A dry cough on the other hand does not expel any phlegm or fluid.

Wheezing dry cough (combined)

A dry cough is generally innocuous, but when accompanied by other symptoms a dry cough can be a sign of something quite serious. Contact a doctor right away if you have a dry cough combined with any of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing dry cough
  • Chest pain when not coughing
  • Coughing only at night
  • Dry cough begins to produce blood

If you have a wheezing dry cough it could be a sign of:

  • Asthma. Narrowed and swollen airways that produce extra mucus.
  • Emphysema. Damaged air sacks in the lungs usually caused by smoke inhalation.
  • GERD. Chronic backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus.
  • Heart failure. Gradual weakening of the heart's ability to pump blood.
  • Lung cancer.

Bronchitis, COPD, and pulmonary edema can be accompanied by wheezing; but coughs with these issues usually produce mucus or frothy sputum.

If you think you are suffering from a wheezing dry cough book an appointment with a PlushCare physician today.

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Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

Ryan has a background in geochemical research and enjoys writing on technical subjects like health and science. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT and can be found recreating in the local mountains.

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