Types of cough

Not all coughs are the same.

If you have a cough, keep track of the following cough characteristics7:

  • Duration
  • Types
  • Features of the cough
  • Accompanying symptoms

Cough classification

A cough can be classified by identifying how long you have been suffering from it.

Acute cough vs Chronic cough

Acute Cough8 Chronic Cough
Less than 3 weeks
More than 8 weeks
Mostly common cold

Starts to improve by the 3rd to 5th day
Inflammation of the membranes
inside the nose or sinuses

Poorly controlled asthma


Acid reflux

Cough can also be classified by whether it produces mucus or phlegm.7

Differences between wet and dry cough

Dry cough (non-productive) vs Wet chesty (productive) cough

Dry cough (non-productive) Wet chesty (productive) cough
Does not produce phlegm7

Develops during the first days of upper respiratory tract infection5

Can be caused by allergies11
Happens later in the course of upper respiratory tract infection5

May be related to inflammation spreading to lower airway and triggering mucus production5

Mucus may come back from the back of the throat, nose, sinuses or up from your lungs11

Other types of cough

Seasonal cough

Acute viral upper respiratory illness such as influenza can cause seasonal coughs. Seasonal influenza activity usually peaks at the turn of the year or around December.9

Night time cough

This type of cough attacks mostly at night.7 Chronic nighttime cough can have many causes including asthma, upper airways cough syndrome and acid reflux disease.11

93% of patients suffering from seasonal influenza have cough as a symptom. A study held in 2015 reported that 30.4% to 48.2% of UAE adolescents suffered from dry nocturnal cough in the past year.13