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Tickly Cough: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

When you have a cough, the different types of medicines and syrups can seem confusing. Two common types of coughs include productive (wet) coughs and unproductive coughs, and typically, these types will need slightly different treatment. A dry tickly cough is an example of an unproductive cough, as it doesn’t produce phlegm .

While most coughs will clear up on their own within three or four weeks, they can be irritating and impact your day-to-day activities. That’s why many people want to know how to soothe a tickly cough to manage their symptoms and allow them to carry on with their everyday lives.

Here, we’ll examine the different causes and symptoms of a tickly cough, as well as remedies you can use to try and alleviate it.

What is a tickly cough?

Tickly coughs don’t tend to produce any mucus or phlegm, which means they’re typically classed as a type of dry cough.

This particular cough is usually identified by a:

  • Tickly sensation in the back of the throat
  • Itchy or dry throat
  • Soreness when speaking or swallowing.

While any soreness should improve within a week, the exact time it takes for your throat to recover can depend on the underlying cause of your tickly cough and if any further treatment is needed.

What causes a tickly cough?

Tickly coughs can have several different causes. The most common are cold and flu. However, there can be other causes for that tickly sensation in your throat, which can then lead to coughing.

Viral illness

Viruses like the flu and common cold are the most common causes of tickly coughs. Over time, coughs caused by viral infections change from dry and tickly to wet and productive. This happens as your body tries to remove excess mucus in your airways as part of your immune response. Even after the virus has passed, you may experience a dry, tickly cough that lingers. This is because coughing can irritate your lungs, which can, itself, cause a tickle and coughing response.


Hay fever, pet, and dust allergies can all cause coughing. As you breathe in an allergen or trigger, like pollen or pet dander, they can irritate your airways, which may lead to a persistent tickly cough.


Irritation is a common trigger for coughing, especially when it comes in the form of dry and tickly coughs. Common irritants include :

  • Dust
  • Mould
  • Cold air
  • Strong perfumes
  • Smoke.

Dust and mould can be especially irritating if you have an allergy or sensitivity to them.


Simply being dehydrated can cause an itching sensation in the throat, which can result in secondary symptoms such as coughing. This can also be the case if you speak for a long time without drinking, as this can dry out your throat.

How to get rid of a tickly cough

While tickly coughs can be irritating, there are a few things you can try to soothe them. Here are some common tickly cough treatments:

Cough drops, syrups, and lozenges

Many cough medications contain menthol as a key ingredient to help soothe tickly throats and ease itchiness. Menthol helps to relieve congestion to make it easier to breathe. Always check the dosage information on any cough drops or lozenges to make sure you don’t overuse them.

Syrups tend to soothe tickly coughs without the use of menthol. For example, Benylin Dry and Tickly Cough Syrup instead soothes the itchiness in your throat with glycerol and sucrose.

Drinking plenty of fluids

Staying hydrated is important when recovering from a tickly cough. Drinking lots of fluids, having warm soups, and drinking hot lemon and honey can help soothe the itchy sensations of a dry and sore throat. Cold drinks can also help to numb your throat, easing those feelings of tickling and irritation.

These simple home remedies could help ease irritation caused by a tickly cough so you can continue to get on with your day.

How to stop a tickly cough instantly

While the underlying cause of your dry tickly cough will determine the recovery time, there are steps you can take to try and relieve your symptoms instantly. Benylin Dry and Tickly Cough Syrup works to soothe irritating, tickly dry coughs and can be taken up to four times daily. You can also try gargling with a solution of salt and warm water serval times a day to help ease irritation in the throat.

What can I do about a tickly cough at night?

If your tickly cough is affecting your sleep, you should take steps to try and soothe it before going to bed. Benylin Dry Coughs Night Syrup contains active ingredients to suppress the coughing mechanism and help you sleep soundly. You can also try keeping bedding clean and monitoring your bedroom’s humidity levels to reduce irritants and allergens. It’s also a good idea to have water, tissues, and medicine by your bedside to control any coughing fits that may wake you up.

My tickly cough won’t go away. What should I do?

Most types of coughs will clear up on their own within four weeks. However, if you have a persistent tickly cough that has lasted more than three weeks, you should see your doctor to determine what’s causing your cough.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor for treatment advice if you:

  • Have had a persistent tickly cough for more than three weeks
  • Feel generally unwell or your cough gets worse very suddenly
  • Experience unexplained weight loss
  • Have swollen glands
  • Get chest pains or have difficulty breathing
  • Have a weakened immune system.

Seek urgent medical attention if you cough up blood.