Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
When someone has an uncontrollable cough it is a symptom but not a disease. It is a reaction of your body to your lungs getting affected and irritated. Many times a person will cough to clear their throat but an uncontrollable cough can be a symptom of some other serious disease so it is advisable to see your physician to find out what is causing your uncontrollable cough.
When a person has an uncontrollable cough it can be divided into three different categories which include:
- Acute cough – with this type of uncontrollable cough stay for three to four weeks and suddenly occurs.
- Sub-acute cough – this type of uncontrollable cough will last longer than four weeks and can occur during the illness and even for several weeks after you are over the illness.
- Chronic cough – if you have an uncontrollable cough for longer than eight weeks then you have what physician’s describe as a chronic cough.
Causes of Uncontrollable cough
When a person coughs it is a reflex action that is usually triggered by some type of irritant in their respiratory passage and is intended to expel the irritant as forcefully and rapidly as possible. There are many different irritants and other causes of having an uncontrollable cough.
Each of the three categories of an uncontrollable cough has their own causes such as:
- Acute cough – with this type of cough it is usually caused from respiratory tract infections that also include pneumonia and the flu or from the common cold. It can also be caused by allergies and sinusitis especially if it you are taking a post nasal drip for an allergy.
- Sub-acute cough – this can also be the result of the aftermath of suffering from a viral infection or cold. It can also be caused by having bronchitis
- Chronic cough – this type of cough are generally from having conditions or diseases like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and taking medication like beta blockers or ACE inhibitors. The most common cause is from the post nasal drip when you have acute sinusitis. Two more serious conditions that can cause a chronic uncontrollable cough are lung cancer and heart failure. It could also be the result of having acid reflux disease especially if you have an uncontrollable cough after eating.
Other causes of having an uncontrollable cough can include having the bacterial infection that causes whooping cough, being a side effect of some medications, lung conditions, especially medications taken for high blood pressure, and smoking.
The treatment for having an uncontrollable cough depends on what is causing this symptom. Many times you can take an over-the-counter medication like decongestants and anti-histamines but if these do not help you may need to see your physician who may prescribe an antibiotic. If you are coughing up phlegm when you have an uncontrollable cough you could take an over-the-counter cough syrup expectorant but if you are just having mostly dry coughs you should take an over-the-counter cough syrup suppressant. If the over-the-counter medications and home remedies do not seem to be helping, if you have had the uncontrollable cough for several weeks, or it seems to be getting worse you should see your physician to find out what is causing your uncontrollable cough and get it the right treatment.
There are also remedies that you can try at home along with the over-the-counter decongestants and anti-histamines or without them
- Use a humidifier is a great way to obtain relief from an uncontrollable cough but if you do not have one you can use a steamy bath or shower.
- Drink plenty of water to help expel the mucus from your lungs.
- You should also drink as much warm liquid as you can like warm water with lemon or soup, especially broth.
- You can also make a homemade cough suppressant of a half tablespoon of honey and a teaspoon of lemon juice mixed and take it every hour. This will also help to soothe your throat.
- You can also add a tablespoon of honey to a glass of grape juice every day to help suppress your cough
- Soak some almonds overnight and in the morning grind them and add butter and sugar. Every morning for five days eat a tablespoon of this mixture.
- Make sure your nasal passages are open to help give you some relief from an uncontrollable cough. You can do this by using saline drops which you can make at home with warm water and a little salt mixed in or buy over-the-counter saline drops.
- Chewing a piece of gum can help get your saliva moving which in turn can help to lubricate your throat to help stop the tickle that is causing your uncontrollable cough.
- Suck on some peppermint candy to help soothe your windpipe and throat but make sure that you do not give this to a small child who could suck it into their windpipe and choke.