Allergic cough: triggers, types and treatment
Allergies can lead to a chronic cough. If a person is sensitive to certain allergens, they may be more likely to develop a cough due to their allergies.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI), if a person is sensitive to dust, animal dander, pollen, mold, or other common allergens, they are likely to cough. due to allergies.
The occasional cough is quite normal. Some people may find that coughing occurs more often in certain environments or during particular seasons. It could mean that the cough is a symptom of an allergic reaction.
The ACAAI estimates that between 40 and 50 million people in the United States live with some type of allergy. There are many types of allergies, including food, drug, and environmental allergies.
An allergy is a condition in which a person’s immune system overreacts to something that is generally harmless. An allergic person may be sensitive to a food, pollen, or an insect bite.
One symptom of an allergy is coughing. This is often the result of irritation and inflammation of the airways that develop as part of the immune response to an allergen.
Some of the common triggers that can cause an allergic cough include:
- seasonal pollen (hay fever / allergic rhinitis)
- mold spores
- pet dander, urine or saliva
- dust and mites
An allergic cough can occur as a result of a reaction in the upper or lower respiratory tract, or both.
Upper respiratory system
Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a common allergic condition in the upper respiratory tract that can cause a cough. According to the American Lung Association, hay fever can present with symptoms similar to those of the common cold, such as a dry cough, runny nose, and sneezing.
If a person is continually exposed to an allergy trigger, they can develop postnasal drip. This is due to the extra mucus that forms in the nasal passages as a reaction to allergens. When this mucus drains down the throat, it can cause a dry cough.
Lower respiratory system
In the lower respiratory system, allergic asthma occurs when allergens trigger asthma symptoms. It is the most common form of asthma.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America lists the following asthma symptoms:
- to cough
- chest tightness
- shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
The organization says that only a healthcare professional can diagnose allergic asthma. If a person has any of these symptoms, they should contact a doctor for evaluation and testing.
Learn more about asthma and allergies here.
Here are some ways to treat an allergic cough at home:
- Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications: Allergy medications, such as antihistamines, nasal sprays, and decongestants, can help reduce inflammation and mucus production that can lead to a cough.
- Using a humidifier or inhaling steam from a shower: Humidifiers can help clear congestion and soothe irritated throat.
- Using an air purifier: A high-quality air purifier can help reduce the number of allergens and irritants in the air inside a person’s home or office.
- Taking prescription drugs: Nasal sprays and antihistamines can help relieve an allergic cough affecting the upper respiratory tract. Inhalers (eg, albuterol) are usually needed to treat an allergic cough affecting the lower respiratory tract.
Find more home remedies for all types of cough here.
It is often possible to manage an allergic cough with home treatment. However, people should talk to a healthcare professional if their symptoms include:
- cough that lasts more than 3 weeks
- cough that does not improve after using home remedies or taking over-the-counter medicines
- chest pain or tightness
- difficulty in breathing
- unexpected weight loss
- a general feeling of feeling very sick
- swelling around the sides of your neck
People should also see a doctor promptly if they experience a cough with severe symptoms, including:
- difficulty swallowing
- cough up blood
- fevers that don’t go away
- voice changes
A doctor will determine if a cough is the result of allergies or if there is another cause.
Learn more about how doctors diagnose allergies here.
People with allergies may confuse them with another condition or vice versa. While some symptoms, such as cough, can be the same for different conditions, many are different. However, it is essential to note that it is possible to have more than one condition at the same time.
If a person has any of the symptoms below as well as a cough, they should contact a healthcare professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and find effective treatments.
Learn more about dry cough and COVID-19 here.
Coughing is a natural bodily function that helps keep people healthy and their airways free from irritants. Sometimes a cough can be due to an underlying condition, such as allergies. Allergies can cause a number of other symptoms, and many other conditions can also cause a cough to develop.
When diagnosing a cough, it is important to know the exact cause, so that doctors can treat it effectively. Often, home remedies are sufficient to treat a cough, but certain symptoms cause a person to contact a healthcare professional for further treatment.