An ear, nose and throat doctor explains what causes a dry cough with white phlegm, and what you can do.

“The most common cause of a dry cough with occasional white phlegm is acid reflux,” says Dr. Stacey Silvers, MD, of Madison ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery in NYC, who is board certified in otolaryngology; one of her specialties is sinus surgery.

“Acid from the stomach comes up and irritates the back of the throat,” continues Dr. Silvers, and “this causes the throat to swell, tickling the cords and causing a dry cough.”

A person can have acid reflux and not necessarily experience heartburn or other discomfort in the stomach or chest.

“The mucous drips in the back of the throat causing post nasal drip,” adds Dr. Silvers.

“This mucous is protecting the throat from the acid which will otherwise cause throat ulcers. It is this mucous that the individual with acid reflux may cough up periodically.”

An NYC expert in ear, nose and throat care, Dr. Silvers has been named among America’s Top Physicians and Surgeons in facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology numerous times since 2003.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Aaron Amat