For anyone who has ever struggled with allergies, the idea that they could be the cause of a cough may not come as a surprise. After all, allergies are known to cause various respiratory symptoms, including sneezing and congestion. However, many people don't realize that allergies can also cause a cough.
Coughing is also one of the most common symptoms of allergic asthma, a condition in which the airways become inflamed in response to an allergen. In some cases, a cough may be the only symptom of an allergy. Learn if allergies are causing your cough by reading more.
What Is an Allergy Cough?
An allergy cough is a symptom that can occur after being exposed to airborne allergens like pollen, mold, pet dander, or dust mites. When an allergen enters your nasal passages, it can cause inflammation or irritation in the airways, which can lead to coughing.
Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are a common cause of allergy coughs as they irritate the upper respiratory system. Exposure to allergens can cause you to develop postnasal drip due to the extra mucus that accumulates in your nasal passage. You can develop a dry cough when the mucus drains into your throat.
Allergy Cough Symptoms
The symptoms of an allergy cough are similar to those of other coughs resulting from conditions such as the common cold, bronchitis, and even sinus infections. However, some key differences can help you distinguish an allergy cough from other types of coughs.
The main difference is that an allergy cough is chronic and lasts several weeks. A cough caused by allergens is also dry, meaning you won't produce phlegm or mucus.
When you have an allergy cough, you will feel a persistent irritation at the back of your throat. This irritation will come alongside other symptoms, including the following:
- Watery and itchy eyes
- A runny or blocked nose
- Sinus headache
These symptoms usually range from mild to severe, depending on the individual. Some people only experience a few symptoms, while others may experience them all.
You should seek medical attention if the symptoms are severe and other dangerous signs accompany them. These signs include blood in mucus, chest pain, and a cough that persists for over three weeks.
How Do Allergies Cause Coughing?
Like other allergy symptoms, coughing occurs when your body's immune system overreacts to an allergen. When the allergen enters your body, the immune system mistakes it for a harmful invader and releases antibodies to fight it. This process also triggers the release of histamines, chemicals that cause inflammation.
The inflammation leads to different allergy symptoms, including a tickling sensation in the throat, which triggers a cough reflex. The cough reflex is a natural mechanism designed to protect the respiratory system.
When the cough reflex is triggered, the muscles in the chest and abdomen contract, and air is forced out of the lungs. This forceful exhalation gets rid of any irritants or allergens that might be present in the airways. While a cough can help to clear the airways and relieve symptoms, it can also cause fatigue and exacerbate other symptoms, such as shortness of breath.
What Else Causes Coughing?
Other than allergies, several other factors can trigger a cough reflex. These include:
Colds and Flu
These respiratory illnesses are caused by viruses that attack the nose, throat, and lungs. The infection leads to inflammation in the airways, which then triggers a cough reflex. Colds and flu usually go away on their own within a few days but can last longer if you smoke.
COVID-19 causes various symptoms, including a dry cough in some people. The cough appears alongside the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19. These include chills or fever, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, and body aches.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is a condition where stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe. The acid irritates the throat and airways, triggering a cough reflex.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a combination of two conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In people with COPD, the airways in the lungs are damaged and inflamed, making it difficult to get enough oxygen into the lungs. Chronic bronchitis causes a cough that produces colored sputum, while emphysema results in shortness of breath and damaged air sacs.
Smoking irritates the throat and airways, which leads to coughing. The more you smoke, the more likely you will experience a cough.
Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes inflammation in the airways, making breathing difficult. During an asthma attack, the muscles around the airways tighten, and there is an increase in mucus production. This narrowing of the airways and excess mucus leads to difficulty breathing and a chronic cough.
Ways to Diagnose an Allergy Cough
There are a few ways to get a diagnosis if you think you might have an allergy cough. In most cases, your allergist will perform a skin prick or blood test. However, you can get an at-home allergy test from Wyndly.
These tests will help the doctor determine what you're allergic to and whether or not an allergy is causing your cough.
Skin Prick Test
This old-fashioned allergy testing method requires you to visit a doctor’s office to find out the allergen that triggers your cough. The doctor will scrape or prick your skin using a needle that contains a small amount of allergen extract. The allergen extract can come from different sources, such as pollen, pet dander, or dust mites. The allergist will observe the pricked areas for any reaction, such as swelling, itchiness, or redness.
The biggest drawbacks of the skin prick test are that it can be uncomfortable and time-consuming. Skin pricks can be painful, and you will have to set aside some time to go to the allergist’s office. An at-home test will help you avoid all these inconveniences.
At-Home Allergy Test
If you want to save time and avoid the discomfort of a skin prick test, then an at-home allergy test is a good option. You can get an at-home allergy test from Wyndly by following these steps:
- Order the allergy test from Wyndly. We will ship our clinically-certified allergy tests to your door.
- Perform an allergy test and send the results back to us. All you’ll need to do is draw a blood sample through a finger prick. You will mail the sample back to us and wait for the results.
- Receive your personalized allergy profile. Our certified allergists will create your allergy profile based on the test results. They will also develop a personalized treatment plan based on your allergy triggers.
How to Treat a Cough From Allergies
After determining what triggers your allergy cough, you can start considering the treatment. Some of the treatment options you can consider include:
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
These are widely available and do not require a prescription. While OTC medications are fairly effective, they only provide short-term relief. Some popular OTC medications include:
- Antihistamines: You can take antihistamines orally or nasally. They work by blocking the release of histamine and reducing the inflammation that causes coughing.
- Decongestants: Decongestants help shrink the blood vessels and reduce inflammation in the nasal passages.
- Nasal sprays: Nasal sprays can help by flushing out the allergens from your nasal passages.
If OTC medications do not work, you can ask your doctor for a prescription. Both OTC and prescription medications will only provide temporary relief from coughing. If you want long-term relief to help you survive seasonal allergies, it’s best to consider immunotherapy.
Sublingual immunotherapy is a long-term solution that can help you build immunity against allergy triggers. The treatment involves exposing your body to small doses of substances that trigger your allergic reactions until your body is completely desensitized. At this point, your body will no longer react to allergens that trigger your cough or other allergic symptoms.
In other words, sublingual immunotherapy retrains your immune system so it no longer overreacts to allergens. The treatment is usually given in the form of drops or tablets you place under your tongue. Sublingual immunotherapy is just as effective as allergy shots, but unlike shots, you can safely take it from home.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you’re ready to find long-term relief from your allergy cough, then it’s time to start working with Wyndly. Our experts will create a personalized treatment plan to train your body to stop reacting to allergens.
Take Wyndly’s quick survey today and get one step closer to lifelong relief!