Updated 17 October 2016

Types of cough

It is important to know what type of cough you have in order to treat it properly.


To treat a cough, it is important to determine the cause of the cough. Different types of cough suggest different causes. The following are the most common types of cough and possible causes.

Coughs are usually divided in two main types: dry and wet coughs. There are also special types of coughs which should be noted.

Read: The mechanism of cough

Dry Cough

Dry coughs are usually caused by airway irritants, exacerbations of asthma, smoking, certain drugs like ACE inhibitors and even infections in the early stages.

Wet cough

Usually caused by an infective process, wet coughs are commonly due to bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis. A very common cause is post-nasal drip.

Three types of cough need special mention. A barking cough, whooping cough and wheezing associated with a cough.

Here's how to identify your child's cough: 

Barking Cough

Barking coughs are due to croup. An acute viral inflammation of the upper and lower respiratory tracts causing difficulties in breathing.  Commonly affects children between the ages of six months and three years.

Whooping Cough

Usually characterised by uncontrollable coughing, the name comes from the noise made when taking a breath after coughing. Individuals may have choking spells or may cough so hard that they vomit.

Wheezing cough

As in the case of severe asthma

Read more:

Treating a cough

Causes of a cough

Diagnosing a cough


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Cough Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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