Types of Coughs-Productive Coughs and Nonproductive Coughs

Most people do not know that there are types of coughs. Cough is often mistaken as the illness, but actually, it is the body’s natural defensive response to free its system from infection and further development of the disease. Coughing is important for the body to remove foreign materials, including mucous, off from the lungs and airway passages.

Coughs however, have distinctive traits that you can and you should recognize. As a symptom of the illness, its importance is determined only when its symptoms are revealed. There are basically 2 types of coughs: the productive and the non-productive types. Distinguishing productive coughs from non-productive coughs is one way to determine the nature of the illness and its medication. Here’s how you can differentiate the two:

Types of Coughs – Productive coughs

Productive cough produces and expels phlegm (mucous), which may have drained from the back of the throat, sinuses, or nose, or may have expelled up from the lungs. A productive cough should never be suppressed, as it helps the healing from the virus by clearing out the air passage. Here are some caused of a productive cough:

Viral illness

It is quite common to have a productive cough, especially if you’re also experiencing common colds. The cough is usually triggered by that drains from the back of the throat.


An infection in the upper airways or in the lungs can lead into a cough. In this case, a productive cough can be severe as it can be a symptom for chronic respiratory problem, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, severe sinusitis, or tuberculosis.

Chronic lung disease

A productive cough could be a symptom of COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or respiratory infection.

Stomach acid rising back up to the esophagus

Some coughs can be a sign of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which can be very annoying as it can awaken you in your sleep.

Nasal discharge or postnasal drip

Nasal discharge can drain down to your throat, which can lead to cough or the urge of constantly clearing your throat. However, experts disagree on whether this or the viral illness that triggers it is responsible for the cough.

Smoking or (tobacco use)

Cigarette smokers, especially chain smokers, who coughs incessantly, may have developed lung problem, or irritation down to their esophagus and throat.


Types of Coughs – Nonproductive coughs

This type of cough is better known as dry cough, and doesn’t expel phlegm. However, it may develop into colds, or after exposure to various irritant. Some of the causes of nonproductive coughs are:

Viral illnesses

Nonproductive cough after a common cold is a dry cough that may last several weeks, which symptoms usually gets worse at night.


Frequent sneezing, which can be very annoying, is a common sign of allergic rhinitis, an inflammation on the nasal passages caused by allergens.


Mild asthma may show its signs from chronic dry cough. Similar symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or feeling tightness of the chest should be observed.


A type of nonproductive cough, Bronchospasm, usually triggers at night and caused by irritation and leads into spasms into bronchial tubes.

Exposure to allergens

Dusts, chemicals, perfumes, pollen  etc., can trigger an allergic response to the body, which may lead into a nonproductive cough.